Highland Engineering Inc. in Howell has partnered with Florida defense contractor UTS Systems and Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines to convert dozens of single-use, 40-foot shipping containers into rapidly deployable, reusable hospital care pods that attach inside military transport aircraft in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the United States military puts out the call to answer a complex challenge to help our servicemembers, HEI has been proud to answer that call for 25 years,” says Ralph Beebe, president of Highland. “As a Michigan-based company, the opportunity to partner with Delta Air Lines to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic was one we jumped at, in addition to our wonderful lead partner at UTS.”
The initial prototype of the Negatively Pressured Conex was delivered early this week, two weeks from award, to the U.S. military at Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina. Following review, the team expects to deliver 25 units in the coming months, with the opportunity for an additional 50.
“Crisis is our business. We are thrilled to work with HEI and Delta on this innovative, mission-tailored solution just as we have done for the past two decades,” says Tom Eggers, CEO of UTS. “We all care deeply about the mission and those willing to sacrifice it all to keep us safe. UTS is proud to play a small part in protecting those who protect us.”
Developed in response to a Joint Urgent Operational Need from the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), the Negatively Pressured Conex will be fitted to fly on the C-17 and C-5 fleet and will allow for the safe transport of COVID-19 impacted passengers in the upcoming months.
“This capability will ensure USTRANSCOM has the flexibility to meet both the capacity and modularity challenges of COVID-19 patient transport while ensuring the safety of aircrew and medical professionals on these missions,” says Lt. Col. Paul Hendrickson, materiel leader for U.S. Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch, program executive officer, Army Community Service and team lead of the Negatively Pressured Conex.