Andrew Branagh, CEO of Arcata-based Wing Inflatables, was asked by Elon Musk’s engineering team from SpaceX to help construct an inflatable escape pod.
Branagh and his team refined the idea. The result was a submersible “torpedo,” which could hold a person with an air tank and a breathing apparatus. The torpedo is designed to be towed by its front and back, and be sleek enough to be guided through the cave system’s trickiest sections.
Arcata-based Wing Inflatables used 30% of his company’s workforce for the fast-track effort. This reduced his business’ usual output by half. By 9:30 a.m. on Friday, a prototype was ready. Branagh noted that the first rescue pod, which is 7-feet-long, sealed with velcro, and inflatable with the passenger’s exhaled air, was a finished product. There were no throw-away units or re-dos.
By 1:00 p.m., Wing’s rescue pod was tested on the Arcata Community Pool, with a certified dive instructor and two individuals who do not know how to swim. The tests were encouraging, with both test individuals being able to breathe comfortably inside the rescue pod. Branagh worked with Musk and his engineering staff in a conference call.
The pods were flown out along with an engineering team.
The rescue pods are in Thailand and might be used for the remaining rescues. Four of the boys were already saved.
Given Chiang Rai airport hours, soonest we could’ve departed US was an hour ago, but cave now closed for diver rescue. Will continue testing in LA in case needed later or for somewhere else in future.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
By 5:15 p.m., Elon Musk’s private Gulfstream G-650ER landed at the Arcata-Eureka airport in Northern CA and ready to deliver the first set of Wing Inflatables rescue pods.
Rescue Pods different from mini-sub
Apart from the inflatable pods that the engineers from SpaceX and The Boring Company transported to Thailand on Friday, Musk and his team at LA are also designing a mini-submarine for the children. In a series of tweets over the weekend, Musk stated that the mini-sub would be small enough to fit through the contours of the cave and its hull will be made of the same material as the oxygen transfer tube of a Falcon rocket, making it extremely durable. The mini-sub would have four handles and hitch points for the front and rear, with two air tanks on both front and rear, allowing up to four tanks to be connected.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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