Tethered Drones to Spray a NASA Dual-use Compound on Surfaces to Remove Smog and Pollution from the Air

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There is a problem with outdoor air pollution. It is among the world’s most significant health and environmental issues. Smog is a leading risk factor for premature death, responsible for 3.4 million deaths each year. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from cars and trucks are the primary source of smog. This can be solved, and deaths averted, by using tethered drones to spray a NASA dual-use compound on bridges, sound walls, etc., on roadways to remove vast quantities of smog and pollution from the air just as plants do. This will improve our quality of life, prevent or reduce health injuries, and save lives.

Using a tethered autonomous Apellix Spray Painting Drone to spray surfaces with light-activated, air-purifying coatings by PURETi, a NASA Dual Use Technology Partner, will transform harmful NOx gases into simple harmless substances. To currently do this would require an army of painters and equipment. Apellix has developed a patented spray painting robotic aerial system (drones) capable of applying over 12,000 ft2 of coating per hour, with commercial airless spray systems 20x faster than a person. Every 100 square feet coated with PURETi corresponds to 100 feet of forest, thus neutralizing smog and saving lives.

An initial first use of the Apellix and PURETi solution is noise barriers on roads and highways. In the US alone, noise barriers represent over 3,300 linear miles of sprayable flat vertical surface surrounding emission-producing environments, much running through disproportionately represented communities. This is a massive market with multiple adjacencies and enormous potential.

This new and novel robotic application system is a disruptive, transformational change. This time and money-saving innovation automate dull and dangerous tasks while dramatically improving productivity. This proposed initiative will create jobs and bolster the economy. Apellix builds the Spray-Painting Drone in its factory in Jacksonville, Florida, and can quickly scale to producing multiple robots per day. The PURETi solution is manufactured in paint manufacturing facilities in the Northeast and Midwest of the US and can quickly scale. While the PURETi product is more expensive than paint, the savings from the Apellix system more than compensate for the material price.



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  • Name:
    Robert Dahlstrom
  • Type of entry:
    Team members:
    • Software used for this entry:
      C++ and embedded software