Title:
AIR SUPPORT STRUCTURES AND METHODS OF ERECTING SAME
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In an inflatable structure, comprising a first inflatable beam, upon inflation the first inflatable beam extends from a first point of ground contact at a first point along the perimeter of the structure to a first position at a first elevation, from the first position at the first elevation to a second position at a second elevation and from the second position at the second elevation to a second point of ground contact at a second point along the perimeter of the structure. A second inflatable beam is coupled to the first inflatable beam, and upon inflation the second inflatable beam extends from a third point of ground contact at a third point along the perimeter of the structure to a third position at a third elevation, from the third position at the third elevation to a fourth position at a fourth elevation and from the fourth position at the fourth elevation to a fourth point of ground contact at a fourth point along the perimeter of the structure. Sheeting is coupled to the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam, wherein the sheeting provides shade, camouflage, protection from ultraviolet radiation, protection from extreme temperatures, or protection from solar loading for objects located under or within the inflatable structure.



Inventors:
Tarbet, Dean (Annandale, VA, US)
Wallace, George (Springfield, VA, US)
Martin, Robert W. (Guntersville, AL, US)
Ramp, Greg (Meridian, ID, US)
Application Number:
12/191128
Publication Date:
04/02/2009
Filing Date:
08/13/2008
Assignee:
DRS TECHNICAL SERVICES, INC. (Calverton, MD, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/741.1
International Classes:
E04H15/20; E04B1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FIGUEROA, LUZ ADRIANA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KILPATRICK TOWNSEND & STOCKTON LLP (Mailstop: IP Docketing - 22 1100 Peachtree Street Suite 2800, Atlanta, GA, 30309, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. An inflatable structure, comprising: a first inflatable beam, wherein upon inflation the first inflatable beam extends from a first point of ground contact at a first point along the perimeter of the structure to a first position at a first elevation, from the first position at the first elevation to a second position at a second elevation and from the second position at the second elevation to a second point of ground contact at a second point along the perimeter of the structure; a second inflatable beam coupled to the first inflatable beam, wherein upon inflation the second inflatable beam extends from a third point of ground contact at a third point along the perimeter of the structure to a third position at a third elevation, from the third position at the third elevation to a fourth position at a fourth elevation and from the fourth position at the fourth elevation to a fourth point of ground contact at a fourth point along the perimeter of the structure; and sheeting coupled to the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam, wherein the sheeting provides shade, camouflage, protection from ultraviolet radiation, protection from extreme temperatures, or protection from solar loading for objects located under or within the inflatable structure.

2. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the coupling is a flexible coupling.

3. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the coupling is a truss.

4. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the coupling is a strap assembly.

5. The inflatable structure of claim 4, wherein the strap assembly comprises a plurality of color coded straps.

6. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the coupling is a knuckle assembly.

7. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the first elevation is substantially the same as the second elevation.

8. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the third elevation is substantially the same as the fourth elevation.

9. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the first elevation is substantially the same as the third elevation.

10. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the second elevation is substantially the same as the fourth elevation.

11. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the sheeting is coupled to the upper portions of the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam.

12. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the sheeting comprises netting.

13. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the sheeting comprises camouflage material.

14. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the sheeting comprises a tarp.

15. The inflatable structure of claim 14, wherein the sheeting is waterproof.

16. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the sheeting is coupled to the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam using one from the group comprising ties, hook and loop fasteners, and snaps.

17. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the first inflatable beam includes a first vertical leg and a second vertical leg and wherein the third inflatable beam includes a third vertical leg and a fourth vertical leg.

18. The inflatable structure of claim 17, wherein a portion of the first inflatable beam extends from the first vertical leg to the second vertical leg in substantially an arc and a portion of the second inflatable beam extends from the third vertical leg to the fourth vertical leg in substantially an arc.

19. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the first inflatable beam extends from the first point of ground contact to the second point of ground contact in substantially an arc and wherein the second inflatable beam extends from the third point of ground contact to the fourth point of ground contact in substantially an arc.

20. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam include a plurality of standoffs and wherein the sheeting is coupled to the plurality of standoffs.

21. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the inflatable beams comprise an air bladder covered by woven three dimensional fabric.

22. The inflatable structure of claim 1, wherein the sheeting comprises a plurality of smaller sheets that are coupled together to form the sheeting.

23. The inflatable structure of claim 22, wherein the plurality of smaller sheets are coupled one to the other using one from the group comprising zippers, hook and loop fasteners, snaps, and ties.

24. The inflatable structure of claim 1, further comprising a third inflatable beam and a fourth inflatable beam coupled to the third inflatable beam, wherein the third inflatable beam is located adjacent to at least a portion of the second inflatable beam, and wherein the sheeting is further coupled to the third inflatable beam and the fourth inflatable beam to form an unobstructed expanse within the inflatable structure.

25. The inflatable structure of claim 1, further comprising an inflatable cross support beam positioned between a first leg of the first inflatable beam and a first leg of the second inflatable beam.

26. The inflatable structure of claim 25, further comprising an inflatable cross support beam positioned between a second leg of the first inflatable beam and a second leg of the second inflatable beam.

27. A kit for an inflatable structure, comprising: a first deflated beam, wherein upon inflation the first beam extends from a first point of ground contact at a first point along the perimeter of the structure to a first position at a first elevation, from the first position at the first elevation to a second position at a second elevation and from the second position at the second elevation to a second point of ground contact at a second point along the perimeter of the structure; a second deflated beam, wherein upon inflation the second beam extends from a third point of ground contact at a third point along the perimeter of the structure to a third position at a third elevation, from the third position at the third elevation to a fourth position at a fourth elevation and from the fourth position at the fourth elevation to a fourth point of ground contact at a fourth point along the perimeter of the structure; sheeting for coupling to the first inflatable beam with the second inflatable beam, wherein the sheeting provides at least one of shade, camouflage, protection from ultraviolet radiation, protection from extreme temperatures, and protection from solar loading, for objects located under or within the inflatable structure; a strap assembly for coupling the first deflated beam to the second deflated beam; and a case for storing the first deflated beam, the second deflated beam, the sheeting and the strap assembly.

28. A method for erecting an inflatable structure, comprising: laying a deflated first beam in a first position; laying a deflated second beam in a second position; partially inflating the first beam and the second beam; coupling the partially inflated first beam to the partially inflated second beam; inflating the first beam and the second beam such that upon inflation the first beam extends from a first point of ground contact at a first point along the perimeter of the structure to a first position at a first elevation, from the first position at the first elevation to a second position at a second elevation and from the second position at the second elevation to a second point of ground contact at a second point along the perimeter of the structure, and the second beam extends from a third point of ground contact at a third point along the perimeter of the structure to a third position at a third elevation, from the third position at the third elevation to a fourth position at a fourth elevation and from the fourth position at the fourth elevation to a fourth point of ground contact at a fourth point along the perimeter of the structure; coupling sheeting to the first beam and the second beam, wherein the sheeting provides protection from solar loading; and adjusting the plurality of beams to define a predetermined footprint.

29. The method of claim 28, wherein the coupling is a flexible coupling.

30. The method of claim 28, wherein the coupling is a truss.

31. The method of claim 28, wherein the coupling is a strap assembly.

32. The method of claim 31, wherein the strap assembly comprises a plurality of color coded straps.

33. The method of claim 28, wherein the coupling is a knuckle assembly.

34. The method of claim 28, wherein the first elevation is substantially the same as the second elevation.

35. The method of claim 28, wherein the third elevation is substantially the same as the fourth elevation.

36. The method of claim 28, wherein the first elevation is substantially the same as the third elevation.

37. The method of claim 28, wherein the second elevation is substantially the same as the fourth elevation.

38. The method of claim 28, wherein the sheeting is coupled to the upper portions of the first beam and the second beam.

39. The method of claim 28, wherein the sheeting comprises netting.

40. The method of claim 28, wherein the sheeting comprises a camouflage material.

41. The method of claim 28, wherein the sheeting comprises a tarp.

42. The method of claim 41, wherein the sheeting is waterproof.

43. The method of claim 28, further comprising coupling the sheeting to the first beam and the second beam using one from the group comprising ties, hook and loop fasteners, and snaps.

44. The method of claim 28, wherein the first inflatable beam includes a first vertical leg and a second vertical leg and wherein the third inflatable beam includes a third vertical leg and a fourth vertical leg.

45. The method of claim 44, wherein a portion of the first inflatable beam extends from the first vertical leg to the second vertical leg in substantially an arc and a portion of the second inflatable beam extends from the third vertical leg to the fourth vertical leg in substantially an arc.

46. The method of claim 28, wherein the first inflatable beam extends from the first point of ground contact to the second point of ground contact in substantially an arc and wherein the second inflatable beam extends from the third point of ground contact to the fourth point of ground contact in substantially an arc.

47. The method of claim 28, wherein the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam include a plurality of standoffs and further comprising coupling the sheeting to the plurality of standoffs.

48. The method of claim 28, wherein the inflatable beams comprise an air bladder covered by woven three dimensional fabric.

49. The method of claim 28, wherein the sheeting comprises a plurality of smaller sheets and further comprising coupling the plurality of smaller sheets to form the sheeting.

50. The method of claim 49, further comprising coupling the plurality of smaller sheets one to the other using one from the group comprising zippers, hook and loop fasteners, snaps, and ties.

51. The method of claim 28, further comprising coupling a third inflatable beam to a fourth inflatable beam, and wherein the third inflatable beam is located adjacent to at least a portion of the second inflatable beam, and further comprising coupling the sheeting to the third inflatable beam and the fourth inflatable beam to form an unobstructed expanse within the inflatable structure.

52. The method of claim 1, further comprising positioning an inflatable cross support beam between a first leg of the first beam and a first leg of the second beam.

53. The method of claim 25, further comprising positioning an inflatable cross support beam between a second leg of the first beam and a second leg of the second beam.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/955,555, filed on 13 Aug. 2007, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to the field of rapidly constructible structures. In particular, to the field of such structures that are supported by a pair of stable, low profile, arching airbeams attached to each other; that provide protection against ultraviolet radiation, solar loading, and extreme temperatures by use of sheeting; and that may be used in a modular fashion. The structure must be capable of withstanding the rigors of a field environment with the ability to withstand severe inclement weather witnessed in desert regions.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

There is generally a need for stable, low profile, portable, easily constructed structures that provide general shade and concealment. This need is exacerbated by the fact that many current and foreseeable future military operations take place in arid, hot desert environments. Many commercial endeavors also take place in such environments. Both military and civilian operations can benefit from portable, easily constructed structures that counteract the problems inherent in such environment.

Many situations require commercial and government agencies to use temporary containers for the storage of non-corrosive fluids. Such containers range greatly in size, in the coated fabrics from which they are often constructed, and in their contents (e.g., water, fuel, pressurized air, any useful gas or any other desired fluid). One example is a 210,000 gallon container of coated fabric used by the U.S. military for storage of water or fuel.

One problem with these containers is that they are prone to degradation by the ultraviolet light and extreme temperatures present in arid, sunny, desert environments. The exterior surfaces are often made of coated fabric, to improve the container's portability by making it relatively light and collapsible. However, these fabrics tend to degrade when exposed to ultraviolet light and/or extreme temperatures. The effects of extreme temperatures are exacerbated by the fact that these containers are also susceptible to solar loading (i.e., the increase in surface temperature of surfaces exposed to sunlight) on the container's top and sides. When the fabrics degrade to a certain extent, the container's structural integrity fails. Such fabric containers are also prone to structural failure due to side and top stress, which is created by the pressure of the fluid within the container.

Failure of such fabric containers can be catastrophic, as it often eliminates the sole source of water, fuel, or other essential fluid for whatever outpost is relying on it. It is also problematically expensive to repair or replace these containers. Repair or replacement efforts also detract from whatever mission has called for installation of a portable fluid container in the first place. It is therefore desirable to protect these containers from ultraviolet light, extreme temperatures, and solar loading. It is further desirable that such protection be portable, have a low profile, and be easily constructed, so as not to detract from the fabric containers' portability and ease of construction. Any covering structure is desirably easy to install, without undue labor, training, or a large task force. It is also desirable to reinforce the fabric containers against internal stress in a similarly portable and easily constructed manner.

Humans also function much better when they are protected against ultraviolet radiation, increased temperatures, and solar loading. Just as containers are prone to failure in response to ultraviolet radiation, so are humans, in that they are easily sunburned and may fall prey to sun poisoning or heatstroke. Even in situations where large fluid containers are not called for, a rapidly constructible shield from the sun and harsh temperatures that provides a large interior expanse is still desirable.

Where shielding of gear and personnel is necessary in a covert context, such as a military operation, it is further desirable that the structure be generally undetectable. More specifically, it is desirable that the structure provide camouflage for the contents beneath it, such that inquirers cannot discern the contents, the number of items beneath the structure, or whether anything is beneath the structure at all. Such camouflage is particularly useful where the structure is covering a military command center; it is especially desirable that enemies not be able to determine the parts of the command center or their location. Depending on specific requirements, it is desirable that the structure be visually and thermally undetectable, as well as by radar, infrared, and other means of inquiry.

For the ease of working within such a structure, it is desirable that the structure provides an unobstructed internal expanse without being too tall. Operations using such structures may require a great deal of gear that is optimally stored within a shielded environment; the personnel carrying out the operations may also need a great deal of covered space within which to work more comfortably. A low profile, large expanse is especially desirable where the structures cover large entities, such as vehicles, tanks, large storage containers, the aforementioned fluid containers, operation staging grounds, and lodging structures. An unobstructed expanse greatly facilitates the construction, manipulation, movement, use, and deconstruction of such large entities. Many current structures of such a large size rely on posts, columns, a truss network, or other internal supports, which undesirably impede the internal space. It is therefore desirable that a temporary structure provide an unobstructed internal expanse, and that the expanse be able to be very large.

In addition, different operations call for differently shaped spaces that require cover; such spaces may be rectangular, square, any other polygon, round, or generally amorphous. For purposes of efficiency, it is desirable that a structure be customizable to precisely cover the desired shape. It is undesirable to transport and erect more structure than is required, particularly in leanly run military or commercial operations. In addition, this customizability should not be at the cost of stability; a structure over a square should be as secure as a structure over a less conventional polygon.

Some inroads have been made into the field of portable, easily constructed structures. Currently, some such structures comprise a skeleton covered by an inflatable shell. One advantage of an inflatable component is its decreased weight, which in turn makes it more portable and easy to construct. Construction is also expedited and facilitated by the fact that only inflation, rather than more tedious construction methods, is required. However, these advantages apply only to the inflatable component. Current structures with inflatable shells over a solid skeleton are still undesirably heavy, nonportable, and difficult to construct, due to the need to move and construct the solid skeleton. It is therefore desirable to increase the percentage of inflatable components in an inflatable structure, without sacrificing its stability.

Some current improvements upon inflatable structures are supported by airbeams, which comprise an air-holding bladder covered by a continuously braided or woven, high-strength, three dimensional fabric sleeve. Such airbeams may be from two to forty inches in diameter, and may be set at any desirable pressure. These airbeams contribute to the goals of lightening structures, making them more portable, and expediting construction; it is believed, for example, that tents comprising airbeams are up to two-thirds lighter, shrink into less than one-fourth the volume when stowed, and are set up in less than half the time of more conventional structures. They are also believed to be adequately stable for purposes of supporting a covering structure. Large airbeam structures are especially desirable because the advantages of airbeam structures—their relative lightness, ease of construction, and portability—are especially cogent in the context of a larger structure, for which conventional construction would take an unacceptable amount of time and resources.

However, current airbeam structures are not easily customized to cover a particular large space without an accompanying adjustment to the height. They are generally available in single units that are not designed to be used together in groups to cover a larger space. When used side by side in an attempt to cover a greater footprint, current airbeam structures interrupt the larger internal expanse, as the boundaries of current airbeam structures often come too close to the ground around the structure's entire perimeter. The only current way to cover larger footprints in a manner that provides unimpeded internal space is by a customized larger and taller structure made specifically for that larger footprint. This structure cannot be used for any other footprint; this decreases its utility. It is therefore desirable for an airbeam structure to be capable of covering a specified large space without impeding the larger structure's internal expanse. It is also desirable that the assembled cover for a certain large space be able to be deconstructed into parts that may later be used independently or in a second larger structure. This saves on materials. It is further desirable for a large airbeam structure to be elevated in the same amount of time as one smaller airbeam structure.

In addition, the construction of current airbeam structures requires an undue amount of labor. Raising current airbeam structures from the ground is a tedious and awkward task that involves the use of material handling equipment, ladders and much pushing and coordination by personnel. It is therefore desirable that airbeam structures raise from the ground with minimal personnel involvement.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Due to these and other problems in the art, disclosed herein is an inflatable structure, comprising a first inflatable beam, wherein upon inflation the first inflatable beam extends from a first point of ground contact at a first point along the perimeter of the structure to a first position at a first elevation, from the first position at the first elevation to a second position at a second elevation and from the second position at the second elevation to a second point of ground contact at a second point along the perimeter of the structure; a second inflatable beam coupled to the first inflatable beam, wherein upon inflation the second inflatable beam extends from a third point of ground contact at a third point along the perimeter of the structure to a third position at a third elevation, from the third position at the third elevation to a fourth position at a fourth elevation and from the fourth position at the fourth elevation to a fourth point of ground contact at a fourth point along the perimeter of the structure; sheeting coupled to the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam, wherein the sheeting provides shade, camouflage, protection from ultraviolet radiation, protection from extreme temperatures, or protection from solar loading for objects located under or within the inflatable structure.

Also disclosed herein is a kit for an inflatable structure, comprising: a first deflated beam, wherein upon inflation the first beam extends from a first point of ground contact at a first point along the perimeter of the structure to a first position at a first elevation, from the first position at the first elevation to a second position at a second elevation and from the second position at the second elevation to a second point of ground contact at a second point along the perimeter of the structure; a second deflated beam, wherein upon inflation the second beam extends from a third point of ground contact at a third point along the perimeter of the structure to a third position at a third elevation, from the third position at the third elevation to a fourth position at a fourth elevation and from the fourth position at the fourth elevation to a fourth point of ground contact at a fourth point along the perimeter of the structure; sheeting for coupling to the first inflatable beam with the second inflatable beam, wherein the sheeting provides at least one of shade, camouflage, protection from ultraviolet radiation, protection from extreme temperatures, and protection from solar loading, for objects located under or within the inflatable structure; a strap assembly for coupling the first deflated beam to the second deflated beam; and a case for storing the first deflated beam, the second deflated beam, the sheeting and the strap assembly.

Further disclosed herein is a method for erecting an inflatable structure, comprising: laying a deflated first beam in a first position; laying a deflated second beam in a second position; partially inflating the first beam and the second beam; coupling the partially inflated first beam to the partially inflated second beam; inflating the first beam and the second beam such that upon inflation the first beam extends from a first point of ground contact at a first point along the perimeter of the structure to a first position at a first elevation, from the first position at the first elevation to a second position at a second elevation and from the second position at the second elevation to a second point of ground contact at a second point along the perimeter of the structure, and the second beam extends from a third point of ground contact at a third point along the perimeter of the structure to a third position at a third elevation, from the third position at the third elevation to a fourth position at a fourth elevation and from the fourth position at the fourth elevation to a fourth point of ground contact at a fourth point along the perimeter of the structure; coupling sheeting to the first beam and the second beam, wherein the sheeting provides protection from solar loading; and adjusting the plurality of beams to define a predetermined footprint.

In an embodiment, the coupling is a flexible coupling. In another embodiment, the coupling is a truss. In an additional embodiment, the coupling is a strap assembly. In a further embodiment, the strap assembly comprises a plurality of color coded straps. In an alternative embodiment, the coupling is a knuckle assembly.

In an embodiment, the first elevation is substantially the same as the second elevation. In the same or another embodiment, the third elevation is substantially the same as the fourth elevation. In the same or another embodiment, the first elevation is substantially the same as the third elevation. In the same or another embodiment, the second elevation is substantially the same as the fourth elevation.

In another embodiment, the sheeting is coupled to the upper portions of the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam. In this embodiment or other embodiments, the sheeting comprises netting. In another embodiment, the sheeting comprises camouflage material. In this or another embodiment, the sheeting comprises a tarp. In this or another embodiment, the sheeting is waterproof.

In an embodiment, the sheeting is coupled to the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam using one from the group comprising ties, hook and loop fasteners, and snaps.

In another embodiment, the first inflatable beam includes a first vertical leg and a second vertical leg and wherein the third inflatable beam includes a third vertical leg and a fourth vertical leg. In this or another embodiment, a portion of the first inflatable beam extends from the first vertical leg to the second vertical leg in substantially an arc and a portion of the second inflatable beam extends from the third vertical leg to the fourth vertical leg in substantially an arc. In another embodiment, the first inflatable beam extends from the first point of ground contact to the second point of ground contact in substantially an arc and wherein the second inflatable beam extends from the third point of ground contact to the fourth point of ground contact in substantially an arc.

In an embodiment, the first inflatable beam and the second inflatable beam include a plurality of standoffs and wherein the sheeting is coupled to the plurality of standoffs.

In another embodiment, the inflatable beams comprise an air bladder covered by woven three dimensional fabric. In another embodiment, the sheeting comprises a plurality of smaller sheets that are coupled together to form the sheeting. In this embodiment or a further embodiment, the plurality of smaller sheets are coupled one to the other using one from the group comprising zippers, hook and loop fasteners, snaps, and ties.

In an embodiment, the inflatable structure further comprises a third inflatable beam and a fourth inflatable beam coupled to the third inflatable beam, wherein the third inflatable beam is located adjacent to at least a portion of the second inflatable beam, and wherein the sheeting is further coupled to the third inflatable beam and the fourth inflatable beam to form an unobstructed expanse within the inflatable structure.

In an embodiment, the plurality further comprises a truss-like structure flexibly coupled to the first airbeam and the second airbeam at a second height relative to the ground that does not interfere with activities within the structure. The first and second airbeams may arc over the structure's length and about half of the structure's width. They may also or alternatively each comprise a first vertical leg section and a second vertical leg section.

In an embodiment, the sheeting is partially supported by a plurality of standoffs. The flexible coupling may be achieved by, for example, a knuckle assembly, a series of color coded straps or a strap assembly. The sheeting may be camouflage material equivalent to that provided by ULCANS.

In an embodiment, the structure is a module in a modular arrangement. In a further embodiment, the sheeting comprises a plurality of smaller sheets coupled or secured together. The modular arrangement may cover one or more fluid containers or other large area.

In an embodiment, the plurality of beams comprises a first airbeam, a second airbeam, and a truss-like structure. In a further embodiment, the first airbeam arches from a first point of ground contact at a first corner of the structure, to a first height relative to the ground and over the structure's center, to a second point of ground contact at a second corner of the structure, and the second airbeam arches from a third point of ground contact at a third corner of the structure, to the first height, to a fourth point of ground contact at a fourth corner of the structure. Additionally or alternatively, in an embodiment, the step of flexibly coupling further comprises flexibly coupling the first airbeam to the second airbeam at the first height; and flexibly coupling the truss-like structure to the first airbeam and the second airbeam at a height relative to the site that does not interfere with activities within the structure.

In an embodiment, the sheeting is partially supported by a plurality of standoffs. The step of flexibly coupling may be performed by, for example, a knuckle assembly, a series of color coded straps or a strap assembly. The sheeting may be camouflage equivalent to that provided by ULCANS.

In an embodiment, the step of adjusting is performed by manipulating a first airbeam and a second airbeam in the plurality of beams, wherein the first airbeam and the second airbeam each comprise a first vertical leg section and a second vertical leg section handled in the manipulating.

In an embodiment, the method further comprises a step of combining a first structure and a second structure to form a modular arrangement. In a further embodiment, the sheeting comprises a plurality of smaller sheets coupled or secured together. In a further or alternative embodiment, the method further comprises inflating the first structure and the second structure simultaneously. In a further or alternative embodiment, the method further comprises deflating and disassembling the modular arrangement wherein the first structure and the second structure may be reused.

In an embodiment, an inflatable cross support beam is positioned between a first leg of the first inflatable beam and a first leg of the second inflatable beam. In the same or further embodiment an inflatable cross support beam is positioned between a second leg of the first inflatable beam and a second leg of the second inflatable beam.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a side view of an embodiment of an airbeam supported structure covered by sheeting.

FIG. 2 shows two diagrams of the general shape of airbeams that support an embodiment of an airbeam supported structure. FIG. 2A provides a side view, while FIG. 2B provides a top view.

FIG. 3 shows four embodiments of airbeam supported structures used in a modular fashion. FIG. 3A shows a side view of an embodiment of a modular structure three structures wide. FIG. 3B shows a view of the embodiment in FIG. 3A from the other side. FIG. 3C shows a top angle view of an embodiment of a modular structure that is three by three modules wide. FIG. 3D shows a side view of the embodiment in FIG. 3C.

FIG. 4 shows a top view of an embodiment of a footprint of a deflated airbeam supported structure.

FIG. 5 shows a view of users employing an embodiment of a carrying case for a deflated airbeam supported structure.

FIG. 6 shows a view of an embodiment of a carrying case for a deflated airbeam supported structure, which shows compression straps and the deflated structure itself.

FIG. 7 shows a view of an embodiment of a deflated airbeam supported structure as it may be laid out before and during inflation.

FIG. 8 shows a view of an embodiment of a strap assembly by which airbeams may be attached to each other.

FIG. 9 shows a view of an embodiment of an inflated airbeam support structure.

FIG. 10 shows a view of an embodiment of an airbeam staked to the ground.

FIG. 11 shows a view of an embodiment of an airbeam staked to the ground and further secured by guy lines.

FIG. 12 shows a view of an embodiment of a stake used in securing an airbeam outfitted with protective a stake cover.

FIG. 13 shows a view of an embodiment of two sheets being attached to each other.

FIG. 14 shows a view of an embodiment of an airbeam supported structure being inflated with the sheeting already secured.

FIG. 15 shows a view of the interior of an embodiment of an airbeam supported structure covering a container for fluid that has been reinforced by a berm.

FIG. 16 shows a standoff according to an embodiment of an airbeam support structure.

FIG. 17 shows an enlarged view of the standoff of FIG. 16.

FIG. 18 shows an unclipped storage bag of FIG. 5.

FIG. 19 shows removal of the unit from the storage bag.

FIGS. 20 and 21 show unrolling of the unit for deployment.

FIG. 22 shows uncovering of the cross support beam.

FIG. 23 shows unrolling of the two beams.

FIG. 24 shows unrolling of the cross support beam.

FIGS. 25 and 26 show self locking strap assemblies used to couple the beams.

FIGS. 27 and 28 show the cross support beams coupled to the legs of the unit.

FIG. 29 shows pump hoses connected to a two-way fill valve on the unit.

FIGS. 30A-30F show inflation of the structure.

FIG. 31 shows securing the legs of the structure to the ground using stakes.

FIG. 32 shows deflation of the air beam structure.

FIG. 33 shows a layout for an ULCANS tailored screen system assembly to cover a 2 air beam structure.

FIG. 34A-34B shows a pulley for use with the door panels of the screen system.

FIGS. 35A-35C show screen units that are coupled using zippers.

FIGS. 36A-36C show final inflation of the structure after assembly and installation of the screen structure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Disclosed generally herein is a structure (100) to provide protection from ultraviolet light, extreme temperature, and solar loading. General embodiments are shown in FIGS. 1 and 14. More specifically, the structure (100) comprises low pressure airbeams (110, 112) that are generally arched in shape. These airbeams (110, 112) support a generally dome-shaped cover of custom-fitted sheeting of ultra-lightweight concealing and protecting material. In an embodiment, each airbeam (110, 112) arches from the ground, at a first of structure's (100) corners, to a point of secure attachment (180) to the other beam (110, 112) over the structure's (100) center, and back to the ground at the opposite corner from the first corner, on the same side. Thus, each airbeam (110, 112) arches over the structure's (100) length and half its width. Any other airbeam (110, 112) orientation that permits support of a cover without impediment of the structure's (100) internal space is also contemplated.

In an embodiment, an airbeam (110, 112) may have two leg sections (114), one on each end of the airbeam (110, 112) that extend vertically from the ground before giving way to the beam (110, 112) as it pursues its arch shape. Such leg sections (114) provide increased stability, a lower profile, and greater space underneath the sheeting (150), and may be of any practicable length. In an embodiment, the length of the leg sections (114) may be any length between about 39 inches to about 10 feet.

In an embodiment, two airbeams (110, 112) are supported by a truss-like structure to provide stability and lower the profile. In a further embodiment, this truss-like structure takes the form of two cross support beams (120), on opposite ends of the structure (100) and securely coupled to and spanning the distance between the airbeams (110, 112). The truss-like structure is coupled to the airbeams (110, 112) at a height that does not impede ingress or egress from the structure (100).

In an embodiment, flexible coupling of beams (110, 112, 120) to each other is accomplished by a series of color coded straps or strap assembly (130), an embodiment of which is shown in FIG. 8. An embodiment of such a strap assembly (130) functions by having a series of color coded straps with a functional amount of offset between the straps. This amount of offset permits the beams (110, 112, 120) to sway in any wind and to compensate for any irregularity in the terrain on which the structure may be installed, but to remain securely coupled to each other. Such an assembly (130) may be used at attachment point (180), to couple the airbeams (110, 112) to each other at the keystone of their arches. This attachment point (180), assisted by any cross support beams (120), is one means of preventing the structure (100) from collapsing outward. The strap assembly (130) may also be used to couple any cross support beams (120) to airbeams (110, 112). In alternative embodiments, beams (110, 112, 120) may be coupled by any means that sufficiently secures the cross support beams (120) to permit the cross support beams (120) to act as trusses to the airbeams (110, 112), and that joins airbeams (110, 112), while still permitting sway inherent in such an air supported structure (100).

The beams, including airbeams (110, 112) and any cross support beams (120) may be made of any useful material known in the art or yet to be discovered that is sufficiently strong and light. In an embodiment, they are conventionally constructed of an air bladder covered by woven three dimensional fabric, which lends the beams (110, 112, 120) strength and flexibility.

The sheeting (150) may take the form of a membrane, a sheeting, a pliable cover, or any other desirable form that covers the beams (110, 112) and the expanse beneath the beams (110, 112) to provide any desirable camouflage, shade, protection from ultraviolet light, and protection from extreme temperatures to any personnel, fluid containers, or other entities beneath. In a preferred embodiment, the sheeting (150) is a net made of military grade camouflage such as ULCANS. In this and other embodiments, the sheeting (150) may comprise multi-spectral camouflage. The sheeting's (150) solar protection prevents, among other things, solar loading; degradation of fabrics due to ultraviolet light and extreme temperatures; sunburn, heatstroke, and heat exhaustion of personnel; and extreme temperatures which may interfere with the performance of mechanical and electronic equipment. The sheeting (150) may thus provide not only shade, but also multi-spectral signature reduction: that is, it may obscure the visual, near-infrared, short wave infrared, thermal infrared, and radar spectrums. The sheeting's (150) material, in an embodiment, is ultra-light, to enhance the structure's (100) portability and not weigh down the airbeams (110, 112).

In an embodiment as shown in FIGS. 16 and 17, in order to further decrease the structure's (100) visibility, the airbeams (110, 112) may be outfitted with a plurality of standoffs (170) that decrease the airbeams' (110, 112) thermal signature. It is believed to be sometimes undesirable for the sheeting (150) to rest directly on top of the airbeams (110, 112), as this undermines the sheeting's (150) thermal and radar concealment properties because the airbeams (110, 112) when touching the sheeting (150) cannot “breathe” and thereby produce a thermal signature readily detectable by methods known in the art. The standoffs (170) support the sheeting (150) a sufficient distance above the airbeams (110, 112), such that the airbeams (110, 112) signature is significantly decreased due to the passage of thermally neutral air between the airbeams (110, 112) and sheeting (150). In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 16 and 17, a standoff (170) generally comprises a triangle, with the protruding corner of the triangle forming a narrow point of contact and support for the sheeting (150). In alternative embodiments, the standoff (170) may take any shape that affords sufficiently minimal contact with the sheeting (150) to preclude a heat signature, and that provides adequate strength to support the sheeting (150); such shapes may include multisided figures or hemispheres. The standoff (170) may be supported or reinforced by any desirable means. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 16 and 17, the standoff (170) further comprises supporting ribs (172) and overlays (174).

The structure's (100) size is limited only by practical constraints, such as the amount of materials and space available, and the size of the area desired to be covered. In an embodiment, airbeams (110, 112) may be approximately 18 to 32 inches in diameter, with their leg portions (114) rising five to 10 feet vertically from the ground before giving way to an arched shape. In this embodiment, maximum head space at the arch's center is about 11-16 feet. In an embodiment, where two airbeams (110, 112) are coupled at attachment point (180) at the center of each beam's (110, 112) arch, their leg sections (114) are approximately twenty feet apart.

The structures (100) may be used as modules, coupled in a modular arrangement (500) to provide as large a shaded area in any shape as required, limited only by the number of modules and the amount of camouflage sheeting available. FIG. 3 shows a number of embodiments of modular arrangements (500). As shown in FIG. 3, structures (100) used as modules may cover expanses large enough for several vehicles, storage of large amounts of fluid, and movement of personnel. Structures (100) may also be customizeably aligned in a modular arrangement (500) designed to fit any polygonal footprint. In an embodiment where the structure (100) is less polygonal and more round, larger amorphous footprints may also be covered.

The only impediments to the modular arrangement's (500) expanse is are vertical legs (114) or other airbeam (110, 112) section contacting the ground, which are significantly less frequent and less obtrusive than supports of current structures. As explained above, any truss-like structures are installed at such a height that they do not interfere with movement between modules or any activities within the modular arrangement (500). The modular arrangement's (500) largely uninterrupted internal expanse is a particular improvement over current inflatable structures that present impediments around the perimeter of each module and so only provide uninterrupted expanses the same size as the module. In an embodiment, a strap assembly (130) or any equivalent thereof may be used to couple the airbeams (110, 112) generally or leg sections (114) specifically of one structure (100) to those of another to secure the modular arrangement (185). Thus, the structure (100) alone, and its usability in a modular formation, achieves the stated goal of rapidly covering a large and customizable expanse without significant impediment or obstruction of that expanse.

In an embodiment, a modular arrangement (500) may be constructed in the same amount of time as a single structure (100). While particular embodiments of methods for constructing a structure (100) are set forth in more detail below, it may be noted at this point that any method of construction may be applied to multiple structures (100) simultaneously, limited only by the amount of construction resources (e.g., generators, inflators, power, and personnel) available. In an embodiment, simultaneous construction of structures (100) constituting a modular arrangement (500) may be achieved by simultaneous individual construction of each structure (100), or such construction facilitated by any means of placing individual structures (100) in fluid communication with each other such that multiple structures (100) may be inflated by a single blower.

Deconstruction of modular arrangements may be performed by any means that preserves the components for later use either in individual structures (100) or a subsequent modular arrangement. This achieves the goal of having a larger covering structure that is useful not only for the footprint for which it was designed, but also for other arrangements. Structures (100) may be assembled into modular arrangements, disassembled, and reassembled without limit.

In an embodiment, the sheeting (150) may also be modular, such that a larger canopy for a modular arrangement (500) may be fashioned out of modular sheets (150) that are coupled, for example, via sheeting lacing (152), as shown in FIG. 13. Any functional equivalent of sheeting lacing (152), or another coupling device or arrangement, such as, for example, zippers, hook and loop fasteners, and snaps, may be used. In a further embodiment, modules of sheeting (150) may be specifically designed as “end sheeting” and “middle sheeting,” such that middle sheeting attaches between end sheeting to optimally cover modules between end modules.

The structure (100) is very easily and rapidly installed by a small group of individuals, who require no special training. In an embodiment of a method for installing the structure (100), a site is selected that is relatively flat. One advantage of the fact that the structure (100) is supported by air and flexibly connected is that mild variances in terrain, such as ditches or inclines, are more readily tolerated than they would be by more solidly constructed alternatives.

As shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, an embodiment of the structure (100) may be stored and brought to the site in a carrying bag (200). In an alternative or further embodiment, the deflated structure (100), within or without a carrying bag (200), may be transported on United States Air Force 463L pallets. This contributes to the stated goal of having a portable cover for use in outfield operations. Because the erected structure (100) is largely supported by air, which is made part of the structure (100) only once the structure (100) is on site and has minimal solid components, the structure (100) is also portable because of its relatively lower mass when deconstructed compared to other structures of its size. Because it is believed the beams (110, 112, 120) are most vulnerable to puncturing and tearing when deflated, the carrying bag (200) additionally protects the beams (110, 112, 120) from such damage. In an embodiment shown in FIG. 6, the deflated structure (100) is secured within the bag (200) with compression straps (210).

The deflated airbeams (110, 112) and any truss-like support are laid out on the site fully extended; embodiments of this laying out are diagrammed in FIG. 4 and shown in FIG. 6. In an embodiment, the laying out is accomplished by unrolling the airbeams (110, 112) from the rolled condition in which they are stored within the carrying bag (200), unrolling both beams (110, 112) from the same end of the footprint area. In a further embodiment, such unrolling will reveal one or more cross support beams (120) coupled to one airbeam (110 or 112); completing unrolling may reveal another cross support beam (120) also coupled to one airbeam (110 or 112). In an embodiment, extended deflated airbeams (110, 112) form arcs toward the center of the footprint area, while cross support beams (120) run parallel to the edges of the footprint area; this embodiment is shown in FIG. 7. This orientation and its functional equivalents place the supports (110, 112, 120) on the perimeter of the structure (100), thus achieving the goal of an unimpeded internal expanse.

In an embodiment, the sheeting (150) is unfurled and placed on and coupled to the top of the airbeams (110, 112) (and any standoffs (170)) in their deflated state. As the airbeams (110, 112) inflate (which is described more fully below), the sheeting (150) is lifted and deployed. However, it is contemplated that the sheeting (150) may be coupled at any point in the inflation process. Sheeting (150) coupling may be accomplished by any lightweight and secure means known in the art, such as, for example, straps, plastic ties, hook and loop ties, and ropes. In an embodiment, the sheeting (150) comprises smaller sheets used in a modular fashion, which may be coupled to each other, such as, for example, using lacing, zippers, hook and loop fasteners, and snaps, as shown in FIG. 13. An embodiment of sheeting (150) deployment is shown in FIGS. 1 and 14.

In an embodiment with cross support beams (120), the cross support beams (120) may be fully flexibly coupled to the airbeams (110, 112) upon completion of unrolling. Such flexible coupling may be through a strap assembly (130), as shown in FIG. 8. In an embodiment with cross support beams (120), these beams (120) are preferably inflated first. This primary inflation provides lateral stabilization to the airbeams (110, 112) and maintains a constant cross distance between those beams (110, 112) during inflation. Inflation of the airbeams (110, 112) preferably follows.

Inflation may be achieved by any blower device known in the art or discovered, and may be powered by any generator or source of power known in the art or discovered. In an embodiment, the blower device comprises multiple hoses in order to inflate more than one beam (110, 112, 120) at a time. In an embodiment, fill pump adapters (not shown) are used to connect pump hoses to two-way fill valves on the beams (110, 112, 120). In an embodiment, beams (110, 112, 120) are outfitted with a first, larger two-way valve designed for use in deflation, and a second, smaller two-way valve designed for use in inflation. In an embodiment, the first valve is a 3 inch valve. In an embodiment, all beams (110, 112, 120) are equipped with a pressure relief valve, which in a further embodiment may be, for example, a 2.75 pressure relief valve. Such a valve is particularly useful where the air in the beams (110, 112, 120) warms and expands; in that circumstance, a valve may permit air to escape and alleviate pressure to an appropriate level. In an embodiment, during inflation, the beams (110, 112, 120) may be monitored for any binding or impediments to inflation; they may also be adjusted to an appropriate position.

During inflation, the center of the structure (100), where the airbeams (110, 112) intersect at attachment point (180), independently lifts off the ground or site with little to no assistance from personnel. This is due to the relative rigidity of the partially inflated airbeams (110, 112), and their generally arched shape. This independent raising achieves the goal of facilitating raising of inflated structures, decreasing the tedium and labor that must be tolerated by personnel, and freeing such personnel to perform other tasks. Once it has raised to an appropriate height, which in an embodiment may be about 3-4 feet, the airbeams (110, 112) may be drawn inward, causing the entire structure (100) to rise and take its intended shape. In a further embodiment, airbeams (110, 112) have leg portions (114) that are drawn inward; in an even further embodiment, those leg portions (114) are equipped with straps that are designed for personnel to grab and use to pull the leg portions (114) inward. Further adjustment to fit the footprint may then be made. An embodiment of fully inflated airbeams (110, 112) and two cross beam supports (120) is shown in FIG. 9.

Upon satisfactory arrangement of the airbeams (110, 112), they may be secured to the ground with lines (151) and stakes (155) or any functional equivalent. An embodiment of securing using stakes (155) is shown in FIG. 10. In a further embodiment, the airbeams (110, 112) may be additionally secured using guy lines (160) and stakes (155), as shown in FIG. 11. Any number of guy lines (160) is contemplated; the number may vary in accordance with the environment, particularly the amount of wind present. In a further embodiment, three guy lines (160) are used. In an embodiment, the exposed ends of any stakes (155) are covered with protective caps (157) to improve safety and prevent the beams (110, 112, 120) from being damaged by the free ends of the stakes (155) during deflation. A stake (155) outfitted with an embodiment of a protective cap (157) is shown in FIG. 12.

It is contemplated that such inflation of two or less modules may occur as rapidly as in less than an hour by four to six personnel. This ease and rapidity of laying out the beams (110, 112, 120) and inflating them, in contrast to more tedious construction of noninflatable structures, achieves the stated goal of rapidly shielding a large expanse from harsh light and temperatures.

Deflation may occur in any desirable manner. It is contemplated that it may follow the reverse of inflation procedures. In an embodiment, a larger valve is used for deflation than was used for inflation. Such rapid deflation contributes to the goal of having a highly portable structure; the structure (100) may be inflated on a first site, deflated, moved to a second site, and reinflated in a very easy manner. In an embodiment, the sheeting (150) need not be detached for such movement. Care is preferably taken to prevent the beams (110 112 and 120) from being punctured by the stakes; in an embodiment, this may be achieved by stake covers (157).

As shown in FIG. 15, the structure (100) provides a large unimpeded internal expanse. The structure (100) is supported by the airbeams (110, 112) and any cross support beams (120) around the structure's (100) outer and upper perimeter, rather than support members intruding into the internal expanse or occupying space along the ground. FIG. 3 shows modular arrangements (500) with similarly relatively unimpeded internal expanses and their unique ability to protect large entities such as vehicles, large fluid containers, and large staging areas.

The embodiment of the structure (100) shown in FIG. 15 provides thermal and ultraviolet insulation for a fabric container (300) that may be used for storing fluids such as fuel, water, or a gas. The sheeting (150) protects the fabric container (300) from solar loading, high temperatures, and ultraviolet rays, each of which contribute to expensive and inconvenient degradation and failure by the container (300). In an embodiment, a structure (100) over a 20,000 gallon bladder (300) is believed to reduce interior temperature as much as ten degrees Fahrenheit, reduce solar loading temperature as much as thirty degrees Fahrenheit, and eliminate as much as 99% of ultraviolet radiation from the cover's interior. In an embodiment, the container (300) may be further protected from damage by a berm (350), which reinforces the container (300) against the internal pressure applied by its contents. In an embodiment, the berm (350), is portable and designed to be easily and rapidly assembled.

The benefits the structure (100) provides to a container (300), including protection against heat and ultraviolet light, are also provided to personnel working within the structure (100) and their equipment. This achieves the stated goal of having a large, stable, rapidly erectable, low profile structure with an unimpeded internal expanse within which human personnel may work more comfortably, particularly in arid, sunny, and hot environments, and within which equipment may freely function without threat of extreme temperatures, solar loading, and ultraviolet radiation.

One embodiment of a method for deploying the structure is described. Prior to initial setup of the structure, a relatively flat area must be located or prepared to accommodate the footprint of the intended structure. As shown in FIG. 4, a footprint of the structure is provided. Mild variances in the terrain can be absorbed by the legs of the structure. As shown in FIG. 5, each unit that is to inflate into the structure is provided in a storage bag. The unit is unloaded from the storage bag at the end or side of the footprint area. As shown in FIG. 6, the unit is secured by a series of compression straps. To remove the unit, the compression straps are loosened and unclipped. The unit should be stored in the same configuration as when removed from the storage bag, including the manner rolled and dimensions of the unit. After the compression straps are unclipped, as shown in FIG. 18, the storage bag should allow unrestricted access to the unit. As shown in FIG. 19, after the unit is removed from the storage bag, care should be taken to ensure that sharp objects are removed from the deployment area, so as to prevent damage to the unit. The structure is in its most vulnerable state when deflated and this is when the most damage can occur. Care should be taken to avoid dropping or dragging the unit when deflated.

As shown in FIGS. 20 and 21, after the unit is placed in the proper location, the unit is rolled out. When unrolling the unit, the path of the structure should maintain an arc towards the center of the footprint area. If the path of the arc is moving away from the footprint area, the beam is on the wrong side and should be moved over laterally to the proper location. Both beams of the structure will unroll from the same end of the footprint area. Alternatively, the beams may be pre-labeled as “A” and “B”. When unrolling the beams, the “A” beam should be located to the right and the “B” beam should be located to the left. This will ensure that the beams remain in the proper configuration for connecting the center straps so as to couple the cross beams.

As shown in FIG. 22, when unrolling the beams, the cross support beam will be uncovered. The cross support beam is uncoupled one on of its ends. When unrolling the beams from the same end within the footprint area, and on the correct side, the cross support beams should align themselves. The cross support beams will need to be recoupled on the second end and inflated prior to inflation of the beams.

As shown in FIG. 23, the beams are unrolled until two beams are rolled out next to each other forming one section. As shown in FIG. 24, the cross support beam is unrolled on the opposite end of the footprint area. As shown in FIG. 7, once the beams are fully unrolled and the cross support beams are rolled out, the cross support beams can be recoupled to the main beams of the structure.

As shown in FIGS. 25 and 26, self locking strap assemblies are used to couple one beam to another beam. The strap assemblies secure the beams together with no chance of damage during temporary deflation periods.

Inflation of the cross support beams are necessary before initial inflation of the main structure. As shown in FIGS. 27 and 28, the cross support beams provide lateral stabilization to the legs of the structure while also helping to maintain a constant cross distance between the legs during inflation. Once both cross support beams are inflated, the inflation of the main structure can begin.

As shown in FIG. 29, pump hoses are connected to a two-way fill valve on the unit. This can be accomplished by using a fill pump adapter. The air beam may be fitted with two valve styles. For example, these can include a large 3″ two-way valve and a smaller two-way valve. The 3″ valve may be used for deflation of the structure or with an inflation system. The smaller valve may be used with an inflation system. Alternatively, other size valves may be used depending on the inflation and deflation rates desired and the size and capacity of the inflation/deflation units. Each unit may include a pressure relief valve, such as, for example, a 2.75 lb pressure relief valve. Alternatively, a different capacity pressure relief valve may be used. Using the 2.75 lb pressure relief valve, when the air in the structure expands upon exposure to the sun and heat, the valve will allow air to bleed out of the unit preventing the pressure within the unit from exceeding 2.75 psi.

Inflation of the structure is shown in FIGS. 30A-30F. The beams should be monitored during inflation to identify any binding or potential restrictions. The main structure body should be adjusted as needed during the inflation process. As the main structure begins to take shape, it may be necessary to adjust the legs. Initial inflation of the structure will require the installation crew to position the legs to match the intended footprint of the structure. As the pressure within the structure increases, the center of the main beams will begin to lift off the ground. Once the centers of the main beams have risen off the ground by about 3-4 feet, the installation crew should move to the ends of the structure and begin pulling inward on the straps that are coupled to the legs of the unit. This will cause the structure to rise and take its intended shape. Once the structure is fully inflated, the legs can be moved inwardly so that they are in a near vertical position. This will bring the structure into substantial conformance with the intended footprint dimensions for the structure.

Once the footprint has been established, as shown in FIG. 31, the legs of the structure may be secured to the ground using stakes, such as, for example, steel stakes, that are secured to straps coupled to the legs. As shown in FIG. 12, the ends of the stakes may be covered by a protective cap, to prevent injury to persons and damage to the unit while being deflated.

As shown in FIG. 32, after it is fully anchored, the air beam structure may be fully deflated and re-inflated with no further installation crew assistance required. The procedures for deflation and re-inflation will follow the procedures described above, but in reverse for deflation (other than the staking procedures which, if done, will be done after deflation).

Installation of the covering for an air beam structure is now described. As shown in FIG. 33, a layout is provided for a ULCANS tailored screen system assembly to cover a 2 air beam structure. The screen system (400) is modular and is expandable in the directions of both the length and width by adding additional panels. As shown, the panels may be expanded using zippers. Alternatively, the panels may be expanded, for example, by coupling using hook and loop fasteners, snaps, or straps.

As shown in FIGS. 34A and 34B, the door panels have a series of three pulleys (405) that are used to raise the door panel for access to the covered area. The pulleys attach to “D” rings (410) that are coupled to the air beam (110). The pulleys (405) are assembled with the door panel and are attached to the air beam (110) prior to final assembly of the screen system (400). As shown in FIGS. 35A-35C, the screen system (400) is comprised of a plurality of screen units (415) that are coupled using zippers (420). The screen units (415) are assembled after initial inflation but prior to final inflation of the structure. As shown in FIGS. 36A-36C, final inflation of the structure is accomplished after assembly and installation of the screen structure. Upon full inflation of the structure, the doors may be moved to an open position using the pulleys as shown in FIGS. 34A and 34B.

While the invention has been disclosed in connection with certain preferred embodiments, this should not be taken as a limitation to all of the provided details. Modifications and variations of the described embodiments may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, and other embodiments should be understood to be encompassed in the present disclosure as would be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art.