Disaster relief technology founded in ToledoWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
The idea behind SkyLife Technology, a new disaster relief system invented and operated in Toledo, is simple, said President Andy Stuart. However, the work and science behind the new product aren’t simple feats, he said.
“SkyLife in and of itself not that complicated a concept; it’s just new,” Stuart said, later adding, “The genius is in its simplicity.”
Thousands of packets, which hold up to eight ounces each, can be placed in boxes, which are delivered by plane to disaster-stricken people who may not have access to roads. The flaps on top of the boxes are not sealed and a small parachute is anchored to the bottom of the box.
Once the box comes out of the plane, “The wind grabs the parachute and as the parachute is being yanked by the wind, because it’s anchored to the bottom, it turns the box upside down and with the flaps loose, the force yanks on the box and it jerks and all the flaps open and the packs fall out,” Stuart said.
Stuart and inventor Jeff Potter of Potter Technologies are currently at a U.N. conference in Geneva to promote SkyLife. They are slated to return around May 24. On May 13, SkyLife held a debut celebration, which included speeches by Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Mayor Mike Bell.
Working in the garage
The idea for SkyLife originated after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Potter said.
“As a former United States Marine, I knew our country could do much better to help victims of disasters,” Potter said in an email. In January 2010, Potter and some of his team began working on SkyLife in his father and chief engineer Terry’s garage as not to disrupt Potter Technology’s work flow.
Stuart, then regional market manager of Clear Channel in Toledo and longtime friend of Potter’s, came on as SkyLife’s president in December 2012.
At the grand debut, Kaptur joked, “I think that this particular microphone suits Andy Stuart much, much better than his old one.”
Stuart said there are some similarities between his new and old jobs.
“The idea is to introduce concepts and build relationships and trust, which is something that I’ve prided myself on all around Northwest Ohio,” he said.
SkyLife is necessary because when disaster relief supplies are delivered through large pallets, which drop down from planes, militants often steal the supplies, Stuart said.
“In all these conflicts, it’s the same story. It’s the young men or the men with guns that control the supplies and it really is a bedeviling project for the relief agencies and the United Nations,” Stuart said.
SkyLife aims to avoid this problem as the packets flutter down and are dispersed by the wind. Additionally, more than three packets at a time are hard to carry due to their slipperiness, Stuart added.
“SkyLife is not judgmental about who gets the supplies. SkyLife is the ultimate in democracy,” Stuart said.
Getting supplies in the hands of needy people could also quell distress, Stuart said.
“The panic sets in when they don’t have something to turn to,” he said.
Community of innovators
Kaptur, who had previously met with Stuart and Potter, applauded their efforts May 13.
“God forbid that the Middle East or any other unquiet place on this Earth fester up again; imagine the millions of people that such an innovation could help. It comes as no surprise to those of us who have chosen to spend our lives in this great region that this innovation could happen here. This is a community of innovators,” she said.
SkyLife could also bring hundreds of jobs to the region, Stuart said.
“We intend to make it here. The great thing about SkyLife is it was invented here; it will be made here and it will be distributed from here [to] around the world,” he said.
SkyLife has also partnered with BX Solutions, based at Toledo Express Airport, for logistical support. Relief and government agencies can store SkyLife Technology, which has a shelf-life of five years, in their warehouses for speedier deployment, Stuart said. He declined to give the price of SkyLife, but said it’s less expensive than what people are currently spending on disaster relief. SkyLife is privately funded, he also said.
It’s up to the aid agencies to determine what goes in the packs, but the possibilities are numerous— food, Mylar sheets to limit exposure, water and sanitary and medical supplies. Power packs may even be possible in the future, Stuart said.
Potter said, “Being able to develop continuity systems is increasingly the focus of disaster planning. SkyLife delivers rapid continuity, not just for food, water and shelter, but also access to information; SkyLife can deliver communication devices and the power to operate them. Also, SkyLife will devise and manufacture novel solutions to shelter that will be a major endeavor.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/SkyLifeTechnology.