Abaca-made vehicle to help in rescue efforts

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Disaster response can in fact be environment-friendly with the launching of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) prototype amphibious navigator, partly made from abaca composites, to boost disaster response capabilities in Central Luzon.

The project Severe Weather Amphibious Navigator (SWAN) was formally shown to the public during the 2019 Regional Invention Contest and Exhibit (RICE) at the Central Luzon State University in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija over the weekend.

DOST Sec. Fortunato T. De la Peña hailed the prototype as the agency’s response the need for a locally fabricated amphibious vehicle suited to the needs of the disaster prone areas of the country. The SWAN is a project of the DOST-Central Luzon through the Philippine Council for Industry Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST PCIEERD).

The SWAN project is also in collaboration with the Central Luzon Industry and Energy Research Consortium through DOST Region 3 under the leadership of DOST Regional Director Julius Caesar Sicat.

Amphibious vehicle

The project was conceptualized in 2016 with the collaboration of Engr. Jaypee Pajarillaga of Holy Angel University and Edgardo Santos of Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University under the research initiative by Dean Ryan John de Lara of the College of Engineering and Computer Technology (CECT).

The vehicle is a response for the need of Central Luzon, whose regions are mostly flood prone during the Monsoon Season. The project aims to the address the need for an amphibious vehicle for rescue and relief operations in areas that are severely flooded and with lingering floodwater problems.

The said project is a one of the first DOST-funded projects on disaster response and is an improved version of the Tactical Operative Amphibious Drive (TOAD) of the Batangas State University. According to the DOST, the vehicles upper deck is made of abaca fiber composites woven into fabrics.

“Molded with a glass fiber reinforced composite hull, the SWAN is lighter and stronger. SWAN is a conversion of an existing truck, it’s under chassis and engine is mounted to the hull to form the whole structure. The SWAN is designed to enhance disaster relief and response to flood operation with its on-road, off-road and amphibious capabilities,” dela Peña said.

With its current design, the vehicle can carry up to 20 persons and 200 packs of relief goods.

Why abaca?

Sec. Peña said that among the local natural fibers in the country, like hemp and pineapple, abaca fiber is considered the strongest.

In fact, one of the technologies offered by the DOST's Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) is the abaca fiber-reinforced composite for industrial applications. Commonly known as Manila hemp, abaca is endemic in the Philippines.

While the country’s abaca supply had experienced poor quality in the past years due to diseases and poor farm management by farmers, the country still leads in abaca production worldwide with a yield of more than 50,000 tons per annum.

According to the ITDI, abaca is considered as one of the strongest natural fibers and is far more resistant even to salt water decomposition than most of the vegetable fibers.

Because its fibers are stronger and stiffer, fiber reinforcement has been shown to be very effective. The developed composites are said to be lightweight, cheap, corrosion-resistant, and provide good insulation, making it a good substitute material for metals like stainless steel and galvanized iron.

In addition, the properties of the composite can also be tailor-made depending on the specific purpose, making it more desirable to use in automobile parts manufacturing and in other allied industries, according to ITDI.

To date, abaca fiber-reinforced composites are being eyed for wider applications in other modes of local transportation like buses, jeepneys, and pump boats.


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