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    rexresearch.com

    Charles WARREN

    DropMaster Delivery System

    http://www.military.com/soldiertech/0,14632,Soldiertech_CopterBox,,00.html

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    Page 1 of 18Charles V. WARREN --- DropMaster CopterBox Deivery System -- 2 articles & 2 pat ...

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    CopterBox Delivery System.

    By David CraneEditor, DefenseReview.com

    Hypothetical Scenario: A U.S. military Special Operations team is currently in the middle of a clandestine op, in-theater.They're running low on 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm ammo, magazines, 40mm grenades, food, and medical supplies. Oneof the team's SOPMOD M4/M4A1 Carbines is down, and they need two extra HK69A1 40mm grenade launchers and aMilkor MGL Mk-1S as force multipliers. As if that's not enough, the local warlord who's been assisting the team against

    enemy insurgents is now asking for another $500,000 U.S. and a brand new stainless steel Rolex Submariner wristwatch,just like the one he's seen on the wrist of one of the operators.

    DefenseReview.com (DefRev) is an online tactical technology magazine that focuses on advanced tactical armament,tactical equipment/gear (including combat/tactical camouflage technology), and tactical training/instruction for militaryinfantry forces. DefenseReview.com strives to provide the most up-to-date information on law enforcement (LE)SWAT/SRT and military Special Operations (infantry)/Special Warfare (SPECWAR) technology developments asquickly as we learn about them.

    This team needs a little care package delivered, fast and low-profile. So, they call it in. Five hours later, as the team hangstight under tree cover, four hexagonal corrugated paper boxes are airdropped from a non-descript utility aircraft at 300feet. Four low-signature airdrop bundles exit the aircraft. Pilot chutes and rotor blades on all four deploy, which allowthem to autorotate down to the ground accurately at less than 40 feet per second. As the containers hit the tree line, therotor blades slice right through the tree canopy at 400 rpm. The team recovers the payload and extracts the requestedgoodies. They're back in business, and back in the game.

    The airdrop scenario described above is now possible because some creative thinkers at DropMaster, Inc. have come upwith CopterBox, an item so simple in concept and design that it's easy to overlook its potential to profoundly change theU.S. military's resupply doctrine and logistics paradigm.

    Airdrop It and Forget It

    The result of a privately funded 9-year, $450,000 project, CopterBox is an expendable airdrop delivery systemspecifically designed to deliver a 60-100 lb payload anywhere in the world, anytime it's needed. With CopterBox, youdon't need specially trained riggers to rig Mil-Spec cargo parachutes and 200 lb (minimum) pallets for a 60-100 lbpayload. And, you don't need a C-17 Globemaster III or C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft to airdrop it, or a CH-47D/MH47E Chinook heavy lift helicopter or UH1-Y Huey utility helicopter to land with it. All you need is a single non-specialized soldier to quick-assemble CopterBox, fill it up with the needed supplies, and load it onto any military orcivilian aircraft that will hold it. Then, just airdrop it and forget about it. Once it's safely on the ground, a single operator

    can quickly recover the payload and dispose of the empty system, then get right back to the mission. Quick and easy. FourCopterBoxes dropped means four operators to recover them, and so on.

    CopterBox: The Skinny

    Name:DropMaster CopterBox

    Type of Equipment:Airdrop delivery system

    Killer Features:

    * Can deliver between 60-100 pounds of payload, anywhere, anytime* Can be airdropped from any aircraft or helicopter

    * Delivery accuracy outshines standard parachute-dropped supplies* At $300 per CopterBox, a clear savings compared to standard cargo delivery systems

    MP3 File - British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) interview with Chase Warren, DropMaster Inc.'s Director ofEngineering

    For more information about CopterBox, or to place an order for it, contact DropMaster, Inc. at 910-630-3269, or by emailat [email protected]

    With the U.S. military's current parachute-based system, an open-field airdrop is usually the best way to go, since thechutes and lines can get hung up in the trees. But, an open-field recovery exposes the team. Aside from the rigging anddelivery logistics problems, payload recovery with this system can also be physically difficult and time-consuming. Ahelo drop requires said helo to either hover over the drop zone or land with the risk of airborne sand brownout or foliage-related foreign object damage, plus the added danger of enemy attention. Helicopter flight time spent hovering andlanding is very expensive, as is losing the aircraft to hostile fire.

    Fortunately, at only $300 per unit, CopterBox makes all this unnecessary. It's even more accurate than parachute-basedsystems, since wind drift hardly effects its trajectory. The CopterBox's impressive delivery accuracy/minimal wind drifthas already been observed in prototype testing from 200 to 10,000 feet above ground level.

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    And, here's the kicker: with additional developmental funding, CopterBox can be outfitted with a low-drag cardboardfairing and hard points for UAV (or other aircraft) deployment. The CopterBox can also be constructed out of inexpensivecorrugated plastic sheet for water-resistance or re-use, per organizational requirement and development funding. Anotherpotential operational benefit is the ability to attach an altimeter or timer delay device to the pilot chute deploymentsystem, allowing CopterBox to be free-dropped from high altitude out of small arms fire reach without the associated longdrift time. A larger diameter or taller CopterBox can also be developed with additional funding, and can be scaled tocustomer/end-user requirements. For instance, a small arms/light weapons-specific version of Copterbox can bedeveloped that will allow delivery of small arms and light weapons to the field, fully assembled. The weapons can bearranged concentrically with internal spacers, to prevent damage. Other versions can be developed to deliver replacement

    Javelin anti-armor missiles and Predator short-range assault weapons.

    The Rotor Blade Deployment Sequence

    When CopterBox is deployed from the aircraft, the small drogue chute comes out first. The drogue chute, utilizing meshin lieu of shroud lines (to prevent tangling and snagging on foliage), orients CopterBox into the relative wind. The chutepulls on the drogue line. This causes a patented break-away stitching system to force a delayed deployment (i.e. opening)of the rotor blades, once CopterBox is safely away from the aircraft. The break-away stitching system also ensuresreliable rotor blade deployment.

    Once the rotor blades are deployed, they cause CopterBox to spin at 400 rpm and begin the autorotative descent to thetarget area on the ground, and enable it to cut right through dense foliage on its way down. An added benefit ofCopterBox's drogue chute/orientation system is that it negates payload center-of-gravity issues when it's packed andloaded onto the aircraft. It also makes CopterBox easy to locate, since you can color the drogue chute any way you like--even hot pink! Once you recover it, just stuff the brightly colored chute back inside CopterBox.

    During touchdown, a paper honeycomb shock absorber plug protects the payload from impact damage. This custom-madehoneycomb is tailored to crush from the deceleration of 60 to 100 lbs, unlike the much stiffer Mil-Spec material, which isdesigned for much heavier payloads. A welded wire rotor hub is at the top of the box, which withstands all of the rotorblade flight and centrifugal loads. The same part is used on the bottom as a landing skid, which protects the box duringrigging, shifting around in the aircraft and upon ground impact. After landing, these two items can be used as camp stovesif needed.

    So, what's the word on the proverbial street about CopterBox? Word is, to a man, every U.S. military spec-operator who'sseen the CopterBox prototype demonstrated is very excited about it, and wants it operational ASAP. PSYOPS personnelare excited about CopterBox's ability to be modified into a psychological warfare tool. CopterBox can be easily andinexpensively modified into a propaganda leaflet dispenser by including centrifugally opened panels on the hexagonalsides, triggered by the aforementioned timer or altimeter. So, as CopterBox spins, the leaflets spin right out, goeverywhere, and accurately reach the intended population.

    CopterBox Kit

    Simplicity itself: The CopterBox kit.

    Unfortunately, U.S. military brass have allegedly been dragging their heels on adopting CopterBox. One of the speculatedreasons is that CopterBox's extremely low $300 per unit price makes it administratively unattractive, and less of a "larger-ticket item." What should be stressed is that CopterBox is useful and adaptable, and has the potential to become a majorprogram from sheer deployment numbers. As one considers the price of a CopterBox versus the astronomical expense ofreusable cargo parachutes (that likely do not get reused) and all of their associated logistical costs, CopterBox's budgetarybenefits quickly become clear. It's the author's opinion that our Special Operations personnel need CopterBox, orsomething like it, right now. So do our U.S. Army and Marine Corps general infantry, for that matter. Non-militaryapplications also come to mind, such as humanitarian relief, domestic disaster relief, and the Forest Service'sSmokejumpers.

    Dimensions and Specifications:

    In its rectangular kit form, which comes in a plastic bag to protect it from the elements, CopterBox occupies a 9" X 18" X34" space on a shelf or pallet. In its rigged, hexagonal form, it is 34" tall and fits inside an 18" circle. The current product,the model 6036, is designed to hold 60 lbs and 3.6 cubic feet of payload while fitting out of a Cessna 172 test aircraft'sdoor. Although it is designed for 60 lbs, it can handle up to 100 lbs -- albeit at the expense of a higher descent rate, andthe ability for a single person to load it into an aircraft and for one operator to easily handle it on the ground. Withminimal training and the instruction sheet provided, one person can assemble a loaded CopterBox in about 5 minutes. Theinstruction sheet has received real world end-user input to maximize clarity and ease of assembly. The patented rotorblades are constructed from high-strength corrugated paper but are folded in a way that provide a high degree of strengthand aerodynamic lift. A yardstick-type spar is added for additional strength, as there is an incredible amount ofaerodynamic stress on the blades during the deployment and flight sequences.

    It should also be noted that DropMaster, Inc. received a 98% rating by the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick), ontheir Phase I efforts on a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. DropMaster, Inc. was also invited by Natick

    to participate in a Phase II grant, two years in a row. However, military funding obstacles have since intervened.

    About the Author: David Crane is a military defense industry analyst and consultant, and the owner/editor-in-chief ofDefenseReview.com. He can be contacted by phone at 305-389-1721, or via email at [email protected]

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    http://www.acq.osd.mil/osbp/sbir/overview/index.htm

    CopterBox Expendable Airdrop Delivery System for Ammo, Food, Meds, and More

    by David [email protected]

    DropMaster, Inc. has developed a new, expendable airdrop delivery system, called CopterBox. CopterBox is an

    autorotating, disposable aerial resupply system, and appears to be a superlative, off-the-shelf product. It is specificallydesigned to be quick to assemble with minimal training, easy to deploy with or without a static line and to be lightweightfor a single operator to recover on the ground.

    When dropped from an aircraft, CopterBox decelerates a 60 lb payload to about 34 feet per second at sea level.

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    DropMaster's main focus is simplicity and low cost. Since CopterBox is meant to be expendable (it's predominantlybiodegradable and/or burnable), you can just drop it and forget it. A patented pilot chute delay system allows CopterBoxto fall a safe distance away from an aircraft prior to rotor blade deployment.

    After the rotor blades deploy and autorotation begins, the steady-state descent is not affected much by wind drift, unlikeparachute-based systems. This minimal wind drift has been observed in prototype testing from 200 to 1,500 feet, resultingin tremendous delivery accuracy. And, because it spins at about 400 RPM, CopterBox cuts through trees and alwaysreaches the ground, again, unlike... parachute-based systems. It is primarily made of high-strength corrugated paper (high-strength cardboard) with minimal metal and nylon parts. These simple materials allow CopterBox to be scalable to

    customer needs.

    With minimal additional cost, a low-drag cardboard fairing can be fitted along with hard points for deployment fromUAVs or other aircraft. Pending proper funding, GPS guidance can be achieved for HALO drops where guidance occursprior to altimeter-triggered rotor blade deployment at a pre-set altitude. CopterBox requires no logistical support ormaintenance.

    Payload weight is currently limited to 60 to 100 lbs. This allows a single operator to recover the payload and easilydispose of the empty system, so he can quickly carry on with his mission.

    If necessary, CopterBox can easily be made from high-strength corrugated plastic sheet (instead of high-strengthpaper/cardboard), in order to be water-resistant.

    Priced at $300 per unit, CopterBox is patented and is the result of a nine year, $450,000 project. It should also be notedthat DropMaster, Inc. received a 98% rating by the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center, a.k.a. U.S. Army Soldier SystemsCenter (Natick), on their Phase I efforts on a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. DropMaster, Inc. wasalso invited by Natick to participate in a Phase II grant, two years in a row. However, military funding obstaclesintervened.

    If you need more information about CopterBox, or you would like to place an order for it, please contact DropMaster, Inc.at 910-630-3269, or by email at [email protected]

    DefenseReview syndicates "Defense Tech" news. "Defense Tech" is published by Noah Shachtman.

    DropMaster, Inc.3600 Abernathy DriveFayetteville, NC 28311

    [email protected]

    Charles V. Warren, President(910) 630-2997

    US Patent # 5,947,419

    September 7, 1999

    Aerial Cargo Container

    Abstract

    An aerial cargo container system for transporting cargo from an aircraft to the ground having a cargo box with acontinuous side wall with six rectangular side panels, and rotor blades having stowed positions against alternating boxside panels and deployed positions extending outwardly from the box in a generally horizontal plane. Each blade mayinclude a lower panel and an upper panel that has two triangular sections behind the leading edge that forms anaerodynamic camber. The blades are hinged to a rotor hub secured across the top of the box. The upward deployment ofthe blades is limited by tethers extending from the blades down to a tether attach frame secured across the bottom of thebox. The box and blades are preferably formed of corrugated paper or plastic material. The entire unit rotates with theload to create aerodynamic braking and lower cargo to the ground with a minimum of energy being translated to the cargoon impact.

    Inventors: Warren; Charles M. (Perry, GA), Warren; Charles V. (Fayetteville, NC)

    Current U.S. Class: 244/138A ; 102/384; 102/388; 244/1TD; 244/137.4Current International Class: B64D 19/02 (20060101); B64D 19/00 (20060101); B64D 1/00 (20060101); B64D 1/02

    (20060101); B69D 001/08 (); F42B 010/60 ()

    References Cited --- U.S. Patent Documents:2324146 July 1943 Frazer2450992 October 1948 Sanderson

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    The cargo container of the present invention, however, incorporates various features not suggested by the prior art. Theseimprovements reside in the following three areas: 1) the box or cargo holder construction and blade positioning, 2)attachment of the rotor blades, and 3) the rotor blade construction. Each improvement contributes to the economicalconstruction of the container and to its superior performance. Depending upon the particular container and its uses, thesefeatures may be used alone or in combination.

    The configuration of the cargo box and the placement of the rotor blades thereon can dramatically affect various aspectsof the container including its carrying capacity, its durability, and its cost of manufacture. It has been determined that thepreferred cargo box addressing these concerns is a box with a hexagonal cross-section comprised of a continuous side

    wall formed of six rectangular attached facets that are positioned in a hexagonal configuration, and a hexagonal end wallclosing one end of the box formed by the side wall material. The open end of the container is closed with a hexagonalshaped plug type lid to enclose the cavity.

    The box walls, for purposes of disposability and economy, are preferably formed of corrugated paper or hardboard. Thecontinuous sidewall may be formed of a single sheet with spaced creases to form the individual panels. The abutting endsof the sheet are joined, e.g., by taping, staples or glue. Alternatively, the sidewalls can be formed of six rectangular panelsthat are joined to each other at their abutting side edges. The size of the box will depend upon the type of cargo to betransported and the cargo size and weight. Generally, however a box with a length from about 32 to about 36 inches and adiameter from about 15 to about 18 inches will be suitable for most cargo up to a weight of about 60 pounds. Thus, eachside panel will have a length of from about 32 to about 36 inches and a width of from about 15 to about 18 inches.

    The container includes three rotor blades, with each blade being positioned adjacent to alternating side panels. Thus, acontainer formed of six side panels will have three rotor blades, with one blade adjacent to every other panel. When thecontainer is stowed, the rotor blades are folded against the side panels and, when deployed, extend outward from the boxin a substantially horizontal plane substantially perpendicular to the side panels. In order to achieve maximum lift, whilestill being easy to store, the blades preferably have length and width dimensions approximating the correspondingdimensions of the side panels.

    In prior art disposable cargo containers, rotor blades have been hinged at their root to one panel or side of the containerbox. Since disposable boxes, of economic necessity, are usually made of corrugated paper, or another disposable materialwith low tear strength, forces against the rotor blade caused by air pressure and the centrifugal force tends to rip the hinge,and often part of the box. Separation of one or more rotors during flight can be disastrous to the load since the containerwill probably plummet to the ground, damaging the cargo.

    In the present invention, this deficiency has been addressed by the use of a separate rotor blade hub positioned at theclosed (upper) end of the box, with the rotor blades being hinged at their roots to the hub, instead of directly to the box.Preferably, the hub is in the shape of a metal wire frame that extends over the top and upper edges of the box. The rotorhinge points on the hub are located on the support adjacent alternating box panels, with hinge pins being used to attach the

    rotor blades to the hinge points of the hub. Thus, the centrifugal force exerted by the blades act upon each other throughthe hub and not the box. Preferably, the hub includes a common central point with connections from the central point toeach of the hinge points. With this arrangement, the rotor blade's centrifugal forces tend to act against each other to negatethe stresses and loads on the box.

    Upward movement of the blades during deployment and flight is limited by tethers and shock cords having their upperends attached to the blades and their lower ends attached at the lid (lower) end of the box. The tethers may be resilient,such as a bungee cord, or a non-resilient cord of a material such as nylon.

    The lower ends of the tethers can be attached directly to the box. However, since the tethers are also subjected to highforces, particularly during deployment, the box preferably includes a tether attachment frame that extends across thebottom wall (lid). This tether attachment frame includes attachment points to secure the lower end of each tetherapproximately beneath the rotor blade to which the upper end of the tether is attached. For example, the attachment framecan be in the shape of an equilateral triangle having apexes that extend beyond the periphery of the box under thealternating panel over which the panels are positioned, with one tether being attached at each apex of the triangle.

    Prior art rotor blades for expensive devices have been made of metal or wood. However, rotor blades for containersdesigned for the purpose of the present invention, have been made from a planar piece of corrugated paper or polymer toreduce cost. These latter blades are not of sufficient strength to withstand the forces to which the container is subjected orto create significant aerodynamic braking due to lift. The present invention solves this problem with a rotor blade that ismade from a single corrugated material sheet or a plurality of segments joined in a particular manner to provide theneeded structural integrity under incurred aerodynamic and centrifugal loading, while maintaining the required economy.

    Basically, the improved rotor blade is comprised of a lower facet, and a multi-facet upper panel secured to the lower panelto form an integral blade. The lower panel is essentially planar and of a single facet, with leading and trailing edges,which may have constant or varying chord distance between them along the span of the blade. Together, the panels form ablade having a planar bottom surface, and a top surface that includes an upwardly extending forward triangle adjacent tothe leading edge of the blade and a planar surface extending downwardly and rearwardly from the forward triangularsection aft to a point forward of the trailing edge, forming and aft triangular section. A pocket for a structural spar existsbetween these two triangular sections.

    To form the forward triangular section, the front segment is inclined upward and back from the leading edge of the blade.A generally vertical forward spar pocket segment has an upper edge common to the rear edge of the upper forwardsegment of the forward triangular section, and a lower edge abutting the lower panel.

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    The center segment spar pocket common to the upper panel has a front edge adjacent and parallel to, but not necessarilyabutting, the rear edge of the front segment, and is inclined to the rear and down to a rear edge that also abuts the lowerpanel. A generally vertical spar has an upper edge integral with the front edge of the center segment, and a lower edgeabutting the lower panel.

    The rear segment of the upper panel is generally planar and abuts the upper surface of the lower panel, and has a frontedge integral with the rear edge of the spar pocket and a rear edge integral with the rear edge of the lower panel.

    The lower and upper facets of the rotor blade can be made from a single corrugated material that is folded along the

    longitudinal axis of the blade to form the panel segments. That is, the blade can be formed by longitudinally folding theouter sides of a paper sheet over a planar central section that forms the lower panel. One side of the sheet is creased toform the front segment and forward spar pocket segment, while the other side of the sheet is folded to form the rear andcentral segments of the upper panels, and the aft spar pocket segment.

    A folded piece of corrugated material is inserted in the spar pocket and forms the spar. The top of the spar is even with thetop of both the forward and aft triangular segments. The spar translates the aerodynamic forces to the tether and the box.The front and central segments of the upper panel, supported by the spar and the spar pocket, form a raised triangularsection along the top of the blade parallel to the blade's longitudinal axis and adjacent the blade's leading edge. Thistriangular section forms the structural rigidity of the rotor, as well as providing the aerodynamic camber required togenerate lift.

    The tether is attached to the spar in such a way to translate all of the aerodynamic lift and planar drag to the box from therotor blade. The upper end of the tether can extend through the blade's lower facet and around the spar and spar pocket,and then back through the lower facet to form a loop.

    The box is designed to be loaded upside down. That is, the lid end of the box that will be in a down position when the boxis in flight will be oriented upward during loading. For this discussion, box orientation convention will be rotor hub enddown and lid end up. Thus, when assembled and oriented for loading, the box has a continuous sidewall formed of sixadjacent, rectangular side panels, and a lower hexagonal end wall secured across the rotor hub end of the box. The box isinserted into the rotor hub, which forms a base or skid upon which the container rests. The rotor blades are attached attheir root hinge points, to the support, and are folded up against the sidewalls of the box. A breakaway strap or othermeans of sacrament is used to hold the blades in their folded position during loading and transport to the drop zone.

    When loading, a spacer may first be inserted into the container. This spacer serves two purposes. First, the spacer preventscargo from being loaded into what will become the upper end of the container after deployment, thereby ensuring that thecenter of gravity of the box will be near the centroid of the cavity to ensure positive blade deployment. Also, the spacer,which can be of an expanded material, such as honeycomb paper, can absorb some of the shock of loading and carriage inthe aircraft.

    After the payload is centered and chocked with disposable packing along the vertical axis of the box, the hexagonal pluglid is secured in the open end. This lid is constructed of honeycomb or expanded material which will tend to crush uponlanding, absorbing shock and dissipating the deceleration forces. The tether attach frame is placed over the lid andstrapped into place with a packing strap that runs around the rotor hub and the entire box. The strap will hold the lid, thetether attach frame, and the rotor hub in place on the box until the aerodynamic and deceleration loads can hold theassembly together in flight. Once the box has landed, the strap is removed to unpack the payload.

    The loaded container is then placed in the same orientation in which it was loaded in an aircraft and flown to the droparea. The box is pushed from the aircraft over the drop zone with a static line or other mean removing the blade-restraining strap that allows the blades to deploy. The relative wind around the box causes a lifting force to deploy therotor blades which rotate about their hinge attach points and are snubbed by the tethers and the shock cords. The bladeswill be limited to a substantially horizontal orientation, i.e. plus or minus ten (10) degrees of horizontal by the tethers. Inturn, the tether attach frame absorbs the tension in the tethers instead of the box.

    The force of the air against the lower facet of the blades, with the leading edges of the blades being lower than theirtrailing edges, causes the container to rotate in the direction of the leading edges, and accelerate rotationally until itachieves rotational terminal velocity, generating maximum aerodynamic lift, thereby slowing the box to its terminalvertical velocity. Centrifugal forces acting on the blades that heretofore could cause the blades to rip from the box duringdeployment and rotation are absorbed by the rotor hub.

    The triangular facets of the rotor blades creates an aerodynamic camber and form structural box beams to insure rotorblades stiffness until centrifugal force stiffening can assist the structure during maximum deceleration. This slower rate ofdescent minimizes damage to cargo upon impact of the container with the ground. The crushable shock-absorbing lidfurther lessens the risk of damage to the payload.

    Accordingly, one aspect of the present invention is to provide an aerial cargo container comprising a box having acontinuous side wall formed of six rectangular side panels, an upper end wall at one end of the side wall and a lower endwall at the opposite end of the side wall, the walls forming a cargo cavity; and three rotor blades having hinged roots, theblades having a stowed position against alternating side panels and a deployed position extended outwardly in a generally

    horizontal plane.

    Another aspect of the present invention is to provide an aerial cargo container comprising a cargo box having acontinuous side wall, a first end cap and a second end cap; a rotor hub across the first end cap; and a plurality of rotor

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    blades having leading and trailing edges, and root hinged to the rotor hub, the blades having a stowed position against thebox and a deployed position extending outwardly from the box in a generally horizontal plane.

    Still another aspect of the present invention is to provide an aerial cargo container comprised of a cargo box with aplurality of rotor blades with leading and trailing edges, each of the blades having a stowed position against the box and adeployed position extending outwardly from the box in a generally horizontal plane, the blades being formed ofcorrugated material and having a planar lower surface and an upper surface that includes triangular raised sectionsadjacent the leading and trailing edges.

    Another aspect of the invention is to provide an aerial cargo container comprising of a box having a continuous side wallformed of six rectangular side panels, an upper end wall at one end of the side wall and a lower end wall at the oppositeend of the side wall, the walls being constructed of corrugated material and forming a cargo cavity; three rotor bladeshaving leading and trailing edges, and inner root ends, the blades having a stowed position against alternating side panelsof the side wall and a deployed position extending outwardly from the box in a generally horizontal plane, each of theblades consists of a lower panel and an upper panel, made up of two triangular boxes, a spar pocket and a spar. The fronttriangular box is adjacent to the leading edge of the blade, the rear triangular box is adjacent to the trailing edge, abuttingthe lower panel, and the central section between the two triangular boxes consisting of the spar pocket and the sparcontained therein; a rotor hub across the first end wall, the root ends of the blades being hinged to the hub; a tether attachframe across the second end wall; and blade tethers attached to the blade spars to the tether attach frame.

    These and other aspects of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art after a reading of thefollowing description of the preferred embodiment.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the upright and deployed cargo container as if it were in flight.

    FIG. 2 is sectional side view of one of the rotor blades showing the tether attachment.

    FIG. 3 is a top view of the container showing the rotor blade root hinges.

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    FIG. 4 is a bottom view of the container showing the tether attach frame and plug lid.

    FIG. 5 is a sectional side view of the container in the loaded and stowed position.

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    DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

    In the following description, terms such as horizontal, upright, vertical, above, below, beneath, and the like, are usedsolely for the purpose of clarity in illustrating the invention, and should not be taken as words of limitation. The drawingsare for the purpose of illustrating the invention and are not intended to be to scale.

    As best shown in the drawings, a preferred embodiment of the container includes a box, generally 10, a rotor hub 12, threerotor blades 14, a tether frame 16, and strut tethers 18.

    Box 10 is formed of six rectangular side panels joined at their abutting edges to from a continuous sidewall 20. An upperhexagonal end wall 22 closes the upper end of wall 20 and a lower hexagonal honeycomb plug lid 24 closes the oppositeend of wall 20. A load spacer 28 is inserted into the interior of box 10 adjacent wall 22 during loading of box 10 toposition the payload closer to the centroid of the box

    Rotor hub 12 is formed of a lightweight welded wire or extruded plastic cage extending across end cap 22 and around theupper ends of wall 20. Hub 12 is strengthened by the use of a central plate 30 and three triangular sections 32 with their

    apexes welded or formed to plate 30 and their bases adjacent the upper ends of alternating side panels of wall 20.

    Blades 14 are hinged at their roots to hub 12 with hinge pins 34, which extend through hinge points 36 extending fromhub 12 on alternating sides. In order for the box to rotate and create aerodynamic lift, the chord line of each rotor blade isset at a negative angle of incidence from a horizontal line that is parallel to the end cap 22. This angle creates rotativeforces that spin the entire assembly. The angle of incidence is between minus four (-4) and minus six (-6) degrees. At thelower end of the container, a tether frame 16 extends across plug lid 24. Tethers 18 extend from the tether frame 16 toapproximately the mid-span of each rotor blade 14.

    As shown in FIG. 2, each rotor blade 14 consists of a folded corrugated material that forms a lower panel 38, an upperpanel comprised of a front segment 40, a spar pocket 46, a trailing segment 42, a rear segment 44, and a spar 48 insertedand bonded into the spar pocket formed by 46. Each blade of the preferred embodiment is formed of a single corrugatedpiece, with the corrugations being parallel to the span of the blade. A hinge tube 50 is attached to the root of each blade bya root re-enforcement plate or strap 52. Plate 52 stiffens the blade root and helps to translate the centrifugal and twistingforces to hub 12.

    The container is positioned as shown in FIG. 5 when being loaded and transported. Spacer 28 is inserted into the containercavity, followed by the cargo (C). After loading, the plug lid 24 and tether attachment plate 16 are secured in place with astrap assembly 54 by securing the hub 12 and frame 16 to the box 10. Tethers 18 from each rotor 14 are attached to attachframe 16. The rotors 14 are secured with rotor containment strap 54. The box is loaded in the aircraft and the blade

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    containment system is attached to the blade deployment static line in the aircraft. The box is pushed out of the aircraft andblade containment strap 54 is released, causing all three blades 14 to be deployed into the relative wind. The box starts torotate, generating aerodynamic braking forces by generating lift. This aerodynamic lift is translated through the struts tothe tether attach frame 16 which then directs the force through the plug lid 24 to the cargo (C). This force will stabilizewhen the box and load decelerate to the terminal velocity. This is the minimum velocity the box achieves before landing.

    Certain modifications and improvements will occur to those skilled in the art upon a reading of the foregoing description.It should be understood that all such modifications and improvements have been deleted herein for the sake of concisenessand readability but are properly within the scope of the follow claims.

    US Patent # 6,712,317

    March 30, 2004

    Aerial Cargo Container with Deceleration and Orientation Assembly

    Abstract

    An aerial cargo container is described that includes a cargo box with a plurality of hinged rotor blades having a stowedposition against the sides of the box and a deployed position extending outwardly from the box, and a deceleration andorientation assembly to slow the descent of the container and align the longitudinal axis of the container with the relative

    wind direction, thereby minimizing damage to the blades upon opening. The assembly includes a drogue chute, a bladeretainer to secure the blades in the stowed position, and a folded metering cord attached between the drogue chute and thebox, and a segment securing the blade retainer, whereby the cord segments unfold sequentially upon exertion of a force toslow and orient the container, prior to release of the blade retainer to permit movement of the blades to their deployedpositions.

    Inventors: Warren; Charles V. (Fayetteville, NC), Fitzgerald; Charles G. (Cameron, NC)Current U.S. Class: 244/138R ; 244/142; 244/147Current International Class: B64D 1/00 (20060101); B64D 1/08 (20060101); B64D 19/00 (20060101); B64D 001/08 ()Field of Search: 244/138R,142,147,148,149,150 102/386References Cited --- US. Patent Documents:2440293 April 1948 Stanley3333643 August 1967 Girard3362665 January 1968 Larsen et al.3497168 February 1970 Finney et al.

    3540684 November 1970 Snyder3586257 June 1971 Zelinskas3662978 May 1972 Hollrock3838940 October 1974 Hollrock4017043 April 1977 Barzda4131392 December 1978 Barzda4379534 April 1983 Miller et al.4765570 August 1988 Herndon5232184 August 1993 Reuter5263663 November 1993 Widgery5309412 May 1994 Bourgeois5947419 September 1999 Warren et al.6164594 December 2000 Pignol et al.

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

    (1) Field of the Invention

    The present invention relates generally to an improved, disposable cargo container comprised of a box with extendiblerotor blades that can be dropped from an aircraft to the ground, and in particular to a disposable cargo container thatincludes a mechanism for decelerating and orienting the container before extension of the rotor blades, thereby reducingthe possibility of damage to the container.

    (2) Description of the Prior Art

    Numerous circumstances require the transport of various kinds of cargo to inaccessible or remote areas where groundtransportation is not possible or timely. These circumstances include both military and peacetime conditions, such asproviding emergency food, fuel and medical supplies to victims of natural disasters, fighting of forest fires, etc.

    In many instances, the cargo can be transported to the area by helicopter, or dropped from an airplane with a parachute.However, helicopters are not always readily available, and are expensive to operate. Parachutes are also expensive,particularly when used to drop relatively small quantities of cargo, and are usually not recoverable due to the terrain andthe conditions under which the cargo is dropped.

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    Various prior art patents since at least as early as the 1940s have proposed an alternative means involving the dropping ofcontainers of small cargo loads from an aircraft without a parachute. Instead, the container is constructed of a disposablebox with attached wings or rotor blades that extend outwardly when the box is dropped from an aircraft. The force of theair against the lower surface of these blades causes the blades to turn in the direction of their leading edges, rotating theattached box and creating lift to slow the container's descent.

    This alternative transport means, while conceptually addressing the need for inexpensive cargo delivery, has apparentlyfound no significant application. This lack of use is believed to be attributable to two somewhat related reasons; costeffectiveness and durability.

    A disposable aerial cargo container that addresses these prior art deficiencies, i.e., a container that can be manufactured atan acceptable cost while still having the required strength and durability necessary for transportation of cargo loads of upto about sixty (60) pounds or more under adverse conditions without significant damage to the cargo upon impact with theground is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,947,419, issued Sep. 7, 1999 to Warren et al., and incorporated herein by reference.

    The Warren et al. container, like prior art containers, is comprised of a box for holding the cargo to be transported, and aplurality of wings or rotor blades having hinged roots, with the blades being deployable to a substantially horizontalattitude when the container is dropped from the aircraft. As with prior art containers, air pressure against the rotor bladescauses the box to rotate and creates aerodynamic lift to slow the descent of the container. The preferred Warren et al.container includes a cargo box with a hexagonal cross-section comprised of a continuous side wall formed of sixrectangular attached facets that are positioned in a hexagonal configuration, and a hexagonal end wall closing one end ofthe box formed by the side wall material. The open end of the container is closed with a hexagonal shaped plug type lid toenclose the cavity. Alternatively, both ends of the box can be closed and the plug placed inside the box to act as acrushable or frangible cushion of landing. The box walls, for purposes of disposability and economy, are preferablyformed of corrugated paper or hardboard.

    The preferred Warren et al. container includes six side panels with three or more rotor blades, one blade adjacent to everyother panel depending on the number of blades used. When the container is stowed, the rotor blades are folded against theside panels and, when deployed, extend outward from the box in a substantially horizontal plane substantiallyperpendicular to the side panels. In order to achieve maximum lift, while still being easy to store, the blades preferablyhave length and width dimensions approximating the corresponding dimensions of the side panels.

    While the rotor blades may be hinged at their root to one panel or side of the container box, there is a risk of separation ofone or more rotors during flight, causing the container to plummet to the ground, damaging the cargo. In the Warren et al.invention, this deficiency is addressed by the use of a separate rotor blade hub positioned at the closed (upper) end of thebox, with the rotor blades being hinged at their roots to the hub, instead of directly to the box. Preferably, the hub is in theshape of a metal wire or composite material frame that extends over the top and upper edges of the box. The rotor hingepoints on the hub are located on the support adjacent alternating or sequential box panels, with hinge pins being used to

    attach the rotor blades to the hinge points of the hub. Thus, the centrifugal force exerted by the blades act upon each otherthrough the hub and not the box. Preferably, the hub includes a common central point with connections from the centralpoint to each of the hinge points. With this arrangement, the rotor blade's centrifugal forces tend to act against each otherto negate the stresses and loads on the box.

    Upward movement of the blades during deployment and flight is limited by tethers and shock cords having their upperends attached to the blades and their lower ends attached at the lid (lower) end of the box. The tethers may be resilient,such as a bungee cord, or a non-resilient cord of a material such as nylon. Since the tethers are also subjected to highforces, particularly during deployment, the box preferably includes a tether attachment frame that extends across thebottom wall (lid). This tether attachment frame includes attachment points to secure the lower end of each tetherapproximately beneath the rotor blade to which the upper end of the tether is attached. For example, the attachment framecan be in the shape of an equilateral triangle having apexes that extend beyond the periphery of the box under thealternating panel over which the panels are positioned, with one tether being attached at each apex of the triangle.Alternatively, a hub similar to the rotor hub can be placed on the bottom of the container to protect the box duringhandling and serve as a multiple (up to six) attach points for the tethers for all the blades.

    Unlike earlier prior art rotor blades of metal or wood, the Warren et al. rotor blades are made from a planar piece ofcorrugated paper or polymer, either in the form of a single corrugated material sheet or a plurality of segments joined in aparticular manner to provide the needed structural integrity under incurred aerodynamic and centrifugal loading, whilemaintaining the required economy. Each rotor blade is comprised of a lower facet, and a multi-facet upper panel with amulti-faceted forward section, a rotor spar of wood or other material, and a generally planar rear section secured to thelower panel to form an integral aerodynamically-shaped blade.

    When loaded, the rotor blades are held against their respective box facets by a blade restraining strap. At the drop zone,the box is pushed from the aircraft with a static line or other means removing the blade-restraining strap. The relativewind around the box causes a lifting force to deploy the rotor blades which rotate about their hinge attach points and aresnubbed by the tethers and the shock cords. The blades will be limited to a substantially horizontal orientation, i.e. plus orminus ten (10) degrees of horizontal by the tethers. In turn, the tether attach frame absorbs the tension in the tethersinstead of the box. The force of the air against the lower facet of the blades, with the leading edges of the blades beinglower than their trailing edges, causes the container to rotate in the direction of the leading edges, and accelerate

    rotationally until it achieves rotational terminal velocity, generating maximum aerodynamic lift, thereby slowing the boxto its terminal vertical velocity.

    While the Warren et al. cargo container is a significant improvement over prior art containers, there is still a risk of

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    damage to the container and its contents when the container is released from the aircraft, particularly with heavy andasymmetrical loads or when the container is being deployed in high relative winds (airspeeds). As noted above, the rotorblades in the Warren et al. container are released for movement to their deployed or extended position from their stowedposition as the container is released from the aircraft. As a result, the blades extend while the container is droppingrapidly, exerting considerable force on the blades and the hinged attach points. After the blades are fully extended and thecontainer is rotating, the container will orient so that an equal force is exerted on all blades. However, when the containeris dropped from a moving aircraft, the orientation of the container may be such that unequal blade forces are exerted.These unequal forces, particularly if the container is moving at a high rate of speed, may cause damage to one or morerotor blades, or prohibit their deployment.

    Thus, the utility of containers constructed similar to the Warren et al. container, would be considerably enhanced, and therisk of damage decreased, if the container could be oriented and its descent slowed prior to deployment of the rotorblades. By slowing the container prior to blade deployment, the container will be farther away from the drop aircraft,insuring that the container is not struck by the aircraft.

    SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

    In general, the desired results of the present invention are achieved by adding a deceleration and orientation assembly,also referred to herein as a delay assembly for brevity, as described herein in detail, to cargo containers of the type thatinclude a cargo box with hinged blades having a stowed position against the box and a deployed position extendingoutwardly from the box.

    The delay assembly of the present invention is generally comprised of an air resistance device, such as a drogue chute; ablade retainer adapted to secure the rotor blades in their stowed position; and a folded metering cord that has one endattached to the resistance device, an opposed end attached to the top of the container, and a segment attached to the bladeretainer. Preferably, the metering cord includes a plurality of folds that are adapted to unfold in sequence.

    When loading the container, the bottom cage or hub with the respective blade tethers and rotor blades attached is placedon the floor. The box is inserted into the bottom cage in its hexagonal shape and the frangible plug is inserted into the box.The payload is placed in the box on top of the plug and secured in the center of the box with packing and dunnage. Thetop wall of the box is closed and the rotor hub cage is placed over the top of the box. The top and bottom hubs arestrapped together to maintain their relative position with each other with the box in between them. The rotor blades arethen pinned in place to the rotor hinge clips on the upper hub and secured. The delay assembly and blade retaining strap isthen attached and secured for transport to the aircraft for launch.

    When the cargo container is discharged from the aircraft, the drogue chute or other drag device, e.g., a streamer, exerts adrag due to wind resistance, creating tension on the metering cord, sequentially opening folds of the cord, thereby slowingthe descent of the container. At the same time the cord tension orients the container so that its axis is aligned with the

    wind direction. Following deceleration and orientation, the blade retainer is released permitting the rotor blades to open totheir extended position. Since the container is moving at a slower speed, and since the force of the air is approximatelyequal against all of the blades, all rotor blades will deploy. Thus, the risk of damage is substantially reduced.

    In a preferred embodiment, the metering cord is folded into an a plurality if S-type folds, with the folds being secured bythread that has a breaking strength below the force exerted on the metering cord during deceleration, e.g., about 15 poundsforce to about 30 pounds force. The number of thread loops securing the folds is equal to twice the number of folds, withthe upper or outer fold being engaged by one thread loop and each half sequential fold being engaged by a one additionalthread loop. The lower fold, used to secure the blade retainer is sewn with all thread loops and therefore the last to break.

    When a force exceeding the breaking strength of the thread is exerted on the cord, the single loop holding the outer fold isbroken, allowing the outer fold to open. As a result, a brief drop in restraining force against the container is followed byan increased force, or tug, acting to decelerate and orient the container. The continuing force on the cord then causes thesecond loop to break, allowing the next fold to open with a similar effect. This sequence continues until the final threadholding the lower elongated fold is broken, resulting in pulling of the elongated fold from the blade retainer, and

    permitting the blades to open.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a cargo container with the metering assembly.

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    FIG. 2 is perspective view of the upper end of a deployed cargo container illustrating the open housing and extendedcord.

    FIG. 3 is a sectional side view of a folded and tied metering cord.

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    FIG. 4 is a top view of a cargo container illustrating attachment of the cord to the hub.

    FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the deployed container during descent with the attached drogue chute.

    DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

    In the following description, terms such as horizontal, upright, vertical, above, below, beneath, and the like, are usedsolely for the purpose of clarity in illustrating the invention, and should not be taken as words of limitation. The drawingsare for the purpose of illustrating the invention and are not intended to be to scale.

    The preferred embodiment of the present invention will be described in the context of the Warren et al. containerdiscussed above. It will be understood, however, that the delay assembly can also be used with other cargo containers, aswell as with other items that are deployed aerially without a parachute in lieu of static line systems now in use.

    As best shown in the drawings, a preferred embodiment of the invention is comprised of a cargo container, generally 10,having a delay assembly, generally 12, positioned on the top of container 10. Container 10 is comprised of a box 14formed of six rectangular side panels joined at their abutting edges to from a continuous sidewall, a rotor hub 16 formed

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    of a lightweight welded wire or extruded plastic cage, three rotor blades 18, a lower hub 20 similar in construction to hub16, and strut tethers 22 joining blades 18 to hub 20. Blades 18 are hinged at their roots to hub 16 with hinge pins 24. Inorder for the box to rotate and create aerodynamic lift, the chord line of each rotor blade is set at a negative angle ofincidence from a horizontal line that is parallel to the end cap 22. This angle creates rotative forces that spin the entireassembly. Different airfoil shapes may need different angles of attack. For example, the angle of incidence may bebetween minus four (-4) and minus six (-6) degrees. Tethers 22 extend from tether frame 20 to approximately the mid-span of each rotor blade 18.

    Delay assembly 12 is comprised of a flexible metering cord 30 that is folded as shown in FIG. 3 prior to deployment and

    held in the folded condition by breakable threads 32, a drogue chute 34, and a housing 36, which may be a cardboard box,to enclose cord 30 and chute 34 prior to deployment. Blade retainer 38 is stretched around box 14 and blades 18 andsecured by a segment of cord 30. Cord 30 is formed of a flexible material, such as nylon webbing or a nylon cord that willnot break under the conditions of use. Cord 30 will normally have a length of from about 15 feet to about 30 feet for usewith most containers.

    As best illustrated in FIG. 3, cord 30 is initially folded into a plurality of folds, i.e., an outer fold 40; an elongated innerfold 42, which serves to secure blade retainer 38; and one or more intermediate folds 44 between folds 40 and 42. For easeof packing, and to facilitate a uniform deployment, outer fold 40 and intermediate folds 44 are generally of the same size,while inner fold 42 will be of a length sufficient to engage blade retainer 38. For purposes of discussion, it will beunderstood that each "fold" is formed of two adjacent, overlapping cord segments.

    As will be discussed in greater detail hereinafter, it is desirable for the cord folds to open sequentially during deployment,with outer fold 40 opening first, followed by each intermediate fold 44 beginning with the intermediate fold closest toouter fold 40, and finally inner fold 42. To achieve this sequential opening, the folds are joined by a plurality of threadloops that will break when subjected to the forces of deployment. Specifically, an outer thread loop 50 joins all of thefolds together. An inner thread loop 52 joins only the segments of inner fold 42, and intermediate thread loops 54 joineach intermediate fold 44 to lower fold 42 and all folds between the particular intermediate fold and the lower fold.Supplemental breakable threads 56 and 58 may be used to secure the outer ends of folded cord 30 until deployment. Byduplicating the thread stitch pattern from the inner fold to the outer fold loop pattern, additional break points can be usedto increase the amount of brake tugs imparted to the container, thereby slowing down the container prior to ladedeployment.

    Thus, the folds open sequentially when a pulling force is exerted between the ends of cord 30, beginning with outer fold40. That is, outer thread loop 50 initially breaks, since thread loop 50 is the only thread loop securing outer fold 40. Then,since fold 44 is secured by only one thread loop, the thread loop 54 breaks. This sequential breakage and extension ofcord 30 continues until inner thread loop 52 is broken, allowing inner fold 42 to be pulled from blade retainer 38.

    Outer end 60 of cord 30 is attached to a drag device, such as drogue chute 34, with inner end 62 being attached to the top

    of cargo container 10, e.g., at the center of rotor hub 16. Folded cord 30 and drogue chute 34 are packaged within housing36. Housing 36 includes an first or upper access opening 66 to permit removal of drogue chute 34 and cord 30, a secondor bottom access opening 68 that is opened to withdraw inner end 52 of cord 30 for attachment to hub 16, and a third orside access opening 70 to withdraw inner loop 42 to secure blade retainer 38. Each opening may be covered by a flap orother cover prior to use.

    Blade retainer 38 in the preferred embodiment is comprised of a stretchable band or strap, e.g., a bungee cord that isstretched around box 14 and all blades 18 to secure blades 18 in a stowed position against the sides of box 14. The ends ofretainer 38 are held together by inner fold 42. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 4, the opposed ends of retainer 38 mayinclude closed loops 74 and 76, with loop 74 being inserted through loop 76 and the end of inner fold 42 being insertedthrough loop 74.

    When cargo container 10 is to be dropped from an aircraft, the operator opens the flap or lid covering opening 66 ofhousing 36 and removes chute 34. Container 10 is then pushed or thrown from the aircraft. To ensure opening, chute 34may be briefly held by the operator or by a breakable static line. As container 10 begins to fall, the force of air resulting

    from the forward and downward movement of container 10 opens chute 34, causing a force to about 30 pounds or more tobe exerted on cord 30, causing folds 40, 44 and 42 of cord 30 to sequentially open. Each loop break meters the stowedcord and imparts a pull to decelerate and orient container 10 so that the longitudinal axis of container 10 aligns with thedirection of movement. Finally, thread loop 52 securing inner fold 42 is broken, resulting in inner fold 42 being pulledfrom blade retraining strap 38. As a result, blades 18 are released to move outwardly to their extended positions. Thus,when blades 18 extend, the speed of container 10 has become oriented at the correct attitude and its descent slowed.Therefore, an equal and reduced force is exerted on all blades, significantly reducing the possibility of damage on one ormore of the blades.

    Certain modifications and improvements will occur to those skilled in the art upon a reading of the foregoing description.It should be understood that all such modifications and improvements have been deleted herein for the sake of concisenessand readability but are properly within the scope of the following claims.

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