Mukilteo startup sells first tsunami survival capsule

Could tsunami survival capsules become common in beachfront communities?

MUKILTEO, Wash. – Survival Capsule, a northwest company that was started to protect people from tsunamis, made its first sale.

The two person capsule was aerospace engineer Julian Sharpe’s idea. Sharpe had an idea back in 2009 to create a strong structure using techniques widely used in aerospace to create strong machines out of lightweight aluminum.

The first idea, put into a computerized design in 2010, won a NASA contest for new ideas. Survival Capsule Inc. was formed, and prototypes built, tested, and even dropped over Palouse Falls, to prove the capsules strength.

A lot of time has been spent in Japan, which lost more than 16,000 people in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.  There Sharpe's company has been working with various levels of government to build capsules that can hold up to 10 people and be arranged in connected clusters.

Sharpe's company recently received an endorsement from Fumihiko Imamura, director and professor of Tsunami Engineering from Tohoku University's International Research Institute of Disaster Science. Fumihiko said the capsule can not only protect people during the tsunami, but provide a shelter once the tsunami has passed.  

Survival Capsule has also been working with Dr. Eddie Bernard, former chief of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle and a world renowned expert on tsunamis and their impacts.

The capsules would be anchored with a tether, a cable to allow the capsule to stay close to the home or business. If that line is broken or is released, the orange color could be spotted from the air and those capsules picked up like lifeboats on the water. 

Survival Capsule is planning for capsules holding four or eight people as well as two and 10. Each one can be completely sealed by closing vents, with a supplemental tank of air. Extra water and food would be on board along with other survival supplies. The capsules receive a later of insulation, similar to the type used on the Space Shuttle.

While the current two person capsules are more than $13,000, Sharpe has designed the capsules to be easily automated in their basic construction which, along with economies of scale, allow the unit cost to drop considerably.  

The market may be growing, with more inquiries coming in from the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, in hurricane country.

Copyright 2016 KING


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