Title:
Inflatable bunker system kit with impact dampening anchors
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An inflatable bunker obstacle field kit. The kit comprises a container sized and shaped to hold a plurality of inflatable bunkers with a plurality of inflatable bunkers within the container having a plurality of shapes and sizes for creating a paintball, airsoft or projectile field. A pluarlity of impact dampeners are attached to each of the plurality of inflatable bunkers. A plurality of anchor adapters moveably connected to the plurality of impact dampeners provide access for a plurality of weight bags to be connected to the impact dampeners. The anchor adapters each have an aperture sized and shaped to receive a stake. The kit includes a portable blower for cumulatively inflating the plurality of inflatable bunkers prior to use of the inflatable bunkers.



Inventors:
Miller, Craig M. (St. Lazare, CA)
Call, John M. (Oak Hill, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/285950
Publication Date:
03/27/2003
Filing Date:
11/01/2002
Assignee:
MILLER CRAIG M.
CALL JOHN M.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H15/20; F41H11/00; (IPC1-7): A63B67/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
HUNTER, ALVIN A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MERONI + MERONI (BARRINGTON, IL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An inflatable bunker obstacle field kit, the kit comprising: a container sized and shaped to hold a plurality of inflatable bunkers; a plurality of inflatable bunkers within the container having a plurality of shapes and sizes for creating a paintball, airsoft or projectile field; a plurality of impact dampeners having first ends attached to each of the plurality of inflatable bunkers; a plurality of anchor adapters connected to a second end of each of the plurality of impact dampeners, the anchor adapters each having an aperture sized and shaped to receive a stake; a plurality of stakes each sized and shaped to fit through the apertures of the anchor adapters; and a portable blower for cumulatively inflating the plurality of inflatable bunkers prior to use of the inflatable bunkers.

2. The kit of claim 1 wherein each of the inflatable bunkers have at least four impact dampeners spaced about each of the inflatable bunkers.

3. The kit of claim 2 wherein the container is sized and shaped to hold at least eight inflatable bunkers.

4. The kit of claim 3 wherein the impact dampener is selected from the group consisting essentially of a bungee cord, spring, elastic band, rubber band or any combination thereof.

5. The kit of claim 4 wherein the inflatable bunker further comprises a pressure relief valve extending through a wall of the inflatable bunker releasing air within the bunker when internal pressure of the inflatable bunker exceeds a predetermined setpoint.

6. An inflatable bunker obstacle field kit, the kit comprising: a container sized and shaped to hold a plurality of inflatable bunkers; a plurality of inflatable bunkers within the container having a plurality of shapes and sizes for creating a paintball, airsoft or projectile field; a plurality of impact dampeners having first ends attached to each of the plurality of inflatable bunkers; a plurality of weighting bags for receiving weighting material within the container for attachment to the plurality of impact dampeners, the weighting bags sized and shaped for side by side placement with the plurality of inflatable bunkers during use of the inflatable bunkers; a portable blower for cumulatively inflating the plurality of inflatable bunkers prior to use of the inflatable bunkers.

7. The kit of claim 6 wherein each of the inflatable bunkers have at least four impact dampeners spaced about each of the inflatable bunkers.

8. The kit of claim 7 wherein the container is sized and shaped to hold at least eight inflatable bunkers.

9. The kit of claim 8 wherein the impact dampener is selected from the group consisting essentially of a bungee cord, spring, elastic band, rubber band or any combination thereof.

10. The kit of claim 9 wherein the weighting material is selected from the group consisting essentially of sand, water or a combination thereof.

11. The kit of claim 10 wherein the inflatable bunker further comprises a pressure relief valve extending through a wall of the inflatable bunker releasing air within the bunker when internal pressure of the inflatable bunker exceeds a predetermined setpoint.

12. An inflatable bunker obstacle field kit, the kit comprising: a container sized and shaped to hold a plurality of inflatable bunkers; a plurality of inflatable bunkers within the container having a plurality of shapes and sizes for creating a paintball, airsoft or projectile field; a pluarlity of impact dampeners having first ends attached to each of the plurality of inflatable bunkers; a plurality of anchor adapters moveably connected to a second end of each of the plurality of impact dampeners, the anchor adapters each having an aperture sized and shaped to receive a stake, the movable connection providing access for a plurality of weight bags to be connected to the impact dampeners; a portable blower for cumulatively inflating the plurality of inflatable bunkers prior to use of the inflatable bunkers.

13. The kit of claim 12 wherein each of the inflatable bunkers have at least four impact dampeners spaced about each of the inflatable bunkers.

14. The kit of claim 13 wherein the impact dampener is selected from the group consisting essentially of a bungee cord, spring, elastic band, rubber band or any combination thereof.

15. The kit of claim 14 wherein the inflatable bunker further comprises a pressure relief valve extending through a wall of the inflatable bunker releasing air within the bunker when internal pressure of the inflatable bunker exceeds a predetermined setpoint.

16. A stand-alone inflatable bunker to provide cover for athletes on a paintball, airsoft or projectile field having an impact dampening anchor system, the bunker comprising: an inflatable bunker having walls made of a flexible and durable material having at least one two-way valve extending therethrough for inflating and deflating the bunker; a bunker handle attached to the outer surface of the bunker wall such that the point of attachment distributes forces pulling against the bunker wall about a wide area; an impact dampener connected to the bunker handle such that the impact dampener is deformed when the inflatable bunker is moved by an object impacting the bunker; and an anchor adapter moveably connected to the impact dampener providing access for a weight bag to be connected to the impact dampener, the anchor adapter having an aperture sized and shaped to receive a stake.

17. The bunker of claim 16 further comprising a weight bag for receiving weighting material having attachment means for attachment to the impact dampener, the weight bag sized and shaped for side by side placement with the bunker during use.

18. The bunker of claim 17 wherein the impact dampener is selected from the group consisting essentially of a bungee cord, spring, elastic band, rubber band or any combination thereof.

19. The bunker of claim 18 wherein the inflatable bunker further comprises a pressure relief valve extending through a wall of the inflatable bunker releasing air within the bunker when internal pressure of the inflatable bunker exceeds a predetermined setpoint.

20. The bunker of claim 19 wherein the bunker has at least four impact dampeners spaced about the bunker.

Description:

PRIOR HISTORY

[0001] This is a continuation-in-part patent application of U.S. utility patent application Ser. No. 09/684,288 filed on Oct. 6, 2000.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to an inflatable bunker and anchoring system, and, more particularly, to a stand-alone inflatable bunker in combination with an impact dampening anchor system for improved shock absorption during a collision.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Simulated war games have been carried out by military personnel and civilians for many years for training and entertainment purposes. In order to carry out these simulations safely and effectively, players engage one another while donning protective gear and equipped with paint pellet guns. These games or simulations may be carried out in a variety of settings or arenas.

[0004] Often times, such exercises are performed in heavily wooded areas or forests where players can hide behind trees and camouflage themselves to blend in and not be detected by their enemies. The exercises are also carried out on outdoor or indoor fields or arenas designed with artificial bunkers to provide cover for players to avoid being hit by paint pellets.

[0005] One design that has been used to create these artificial bunkers comprises a manifold structure along the entire periphery of a playing field having feed tubes extending out therefrom and into various inflatable objects or bunkers. Air is fed into the manifold and supplied to the bunkers through the feed tubes by a remotely placed fan or blower. This design has proven to be cumbersome to setup, noisy, and inconvenient. The manifold, feed tubes, and bunkers have to be connected to one another, for example, by zippers. Players would often trip over the feed tubes while carrying out combat exercises. Moreover, the noise from the fan and generator is a constant nuisance. Also, the bunkers tend to deflate upon deactivating the fan, or becoming accidentally disconnected from the manifold.

[0006] Another drawback associated with this and other inflatable bunker designs is that the bunkers are secured to the ground by way of steel cables or ropes. The cables or ropes are threaded about the inflatable bunker, and then extended downward towards an anchor. The anchor may be in the form of a stake or eyelet that has been firmly secured to the ground. The cables are then secured to the stakes or eyelets. In this manner, the inflatable bunkers are rigidly affixed to the ground.

[0007] Rigidly affixing the inflatable bunkers to the ground has proven to be a hazard. For example, when players collide with the stationary bunkers, most of the force is not absorbed by the stationary object. Upon impact, the aforementioned anchoring system holds the inflatable bunker completely stationary without any give. This absolute resistance to movement does not allow the force to be distributed upon impact thereby causing great bodily harm.

[0008] Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide a self-contained manifold-free inflatable bunker for use in a paintball, airsoft or projectile sports arena or playing field to provide a safe hiding place for players.

[0009] It is another object of the present invention to provide an inflatable bunker and impact dampening anchor system that is portable, easy to use and does not require a constant supply of air to remain inflated.

[0010] It is yet another object of the present invention to provide an inflatable bunker and impact dampening anchor system combination to absorb the forces of an impact during a collision to minimize bodily injury.

[0011] It is yet another object of the present invention to provide an inflatable bunker system kit that provides all of the necessary equipment to erect a playing field in one package.

[0012] Other objects and features will become readily apparent when the disclosure is read in combination with the drawings and appended claims.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0013] What is disclosed is, in combination, a stand-alone inflatable bunker and impact dampening anchor system to provide cover for athletes on a paintball, airsoft or projectile field comprising, an impact dampener having a first and second end, an inflatable bunker having an inner and outer surface, the inner surface defining a bunker cavity for air containment, a two-way valve extending through the inner and outer surface for inflation and deflation of the cavity, and a handle attached to and extending outwardly from the outer surface of the bunker affixed to the first end of the impact dampener, and an anchor adapter connecting the second end of the impact dampener to a stationary ground anchor.

[0014] In the preferred embodiment, the impact dampener comprises a bungee cord. It is contemplated, however, that the impact dampener may also comprise a spring, an elastic band, a rubber band or any combination thereof.

[0015] In one embodiment, the inflatable bunker further comprises a pressure relief valve extending through the inner and outer surfaces for releasing air when the internal pressure of the bunker cavity exceeds a predetermined setpoint.

[0016] In yet another embodiment, the inflatable bunker further comprises a removably affixed weighted base by mating fasteners, the weighted base having an inner and outer surface, the inner surface defining a base cavity for containing weighting material, a fill/drain port extending through the inner and outer surface for filling and draining the base cavity.

[0017] In a preferred embodiment, the weighting material comprises sand. However, the weighting material may comprise water or a combination of sand and water.

[0018] In the preferred embodiment, the mating fasteners comprise mating Velcro® fasteners to removably affix the inflatable bunker to the weighted base. The mating fasteners, however, may also comprise a plurality of mating snaps, buckles and corresponding straps, or buttons and slots.

[0019] In one embodiment, the stationary ground anchor comprises a metal stake having an elongated shaft and a head, and the anchor adapter comprises an adapter body having proximal and distal ends. A connector on the proximal end of the tab attaches to the second end of the impact dampener, and a grommet provides opening on the distal end of the tab. The grommet has a diameter slightly greater than the diameter of the stake shaft and smaller than the diameter of the stake head to prevent the anchor adapter from disengaging the stationary ground anchor.

[0020] In another embodiment, the stationary ground anchor comprises a weighted base having an inner and outer surface, the inner surface defining a base cavity for containing weighting material, a fill/drain port extending through the inner and outer surface for filling and draining the base cavity, and wherein the anchor adapter comprises a base handle affixed to and outwardly extending from the outer surface of the weighted base, the base handle affixed to the second end of the impact dampener.

[0021] In yet another embodiment, the stand-alone inflatable bunker and impact dampening anchor system to provide cover for athletes on a paintball, airsoft or projectile field comprises, an inflatable bunker having an inner and outer surface, the inner surface defining a bunker cavity for air containment, a two-way valve extending through the inner and outer surface for inflation and deflation of the bunker cavity, a pressure relief valve extending through the inner and outer surfaces for releasing air when the internal pressure of the cavity exceeds a predetermined setpoint, and a weighted base having an inner and outer surface, the inner surface defining a base cavity for containing sand, a fill/drain port extending through the inner and outer surface for filling and draining the base cavity, wherein the weighted base is removably affixed to the inflatable bunker by mating fasteners.

[0022] As another aspect of the invention, a plurality of inflatable bunkers can be combined to provide an inflatable bunker obstacle field kit. The kit comprises a container sized and shaped to hold a plurality of inflatable bunkers with a plurality of inflatable bunkers within the container having a plurality of shapes and sizes for creating a paintball, airsoft or projectile field. A pluarlity of impact dampeners are attached to each of the plurality of inflatable bunkers. A plurality of anchor adapters moveably connected to the plurality of impact dampeners provide access for a plurality of weight bags to be connected to the impact dampeners. The anchor adapters each have an aperture sized and shaped to receive a stake. The kit includes a portable blower for cumulatively inflating the plurality of inflatable bunkers prior to use of the inflatable bunkers.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0023] The invention is illustrated in the figures of the accompanying drawings which are meant to be exemplary and not limiting, in which like references refer to like or corresponding parts, and in which:

[0024] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an inflatable bunker and impact dampening anchor system of the present invention.

[0025] FIG. 2 is an enlarged perspective view of the impact dampening anchor system shown in FIG. 1.

[0026] FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the inflatable bunker and impact dampening system of the present invention.

[0027] FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of the inflatable bunker and impact dampening anchor system of the present invention.

[0028] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the inflatable bunker and impact dampening anchor system of the present invention; present invention.

[0029] FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of yet another embodiment of the present invention.

[0030] FIG. 7 is a partial exploded view of the impact dampening anchor system of the present invention.

[0031] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of another alternative embodiment of the present invention.

[0032] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a bunker with a plurality of weighting bags attached to the impact dampening anchor system 30.

[0033] FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a kit for making an inflatable bunker playing field.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0034] Turning now to the drawings, and more particularly, to FIGS. 1-4, a bunker and anchor system combination is shown generally at 10. Bunker and anchor system combination 10 is comprised of an inflatable bunker 20 and an impact dampening anchor system 30.

[0035] Inflatable bunker 20 has an outer surface 21 and an inner surface 23, inner surface 23 further defining bunker cavity 27. Bunker 20 further comprises two-way valve 100 extending through outer surface 21 and inner surface 23 for inflation and deflation of cavity 27 such as that disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,478,587. Additionally, bunker 20 may comprise a pressure relief valve (not shown) extending through outer surface 21 and inner surface 23, also disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,478,587, to prevent bunker cavity 27 from over inflation, that is, for releasing air when the internal air pressure of the bunker cavity exceeds a predetermined setpoint.

[0036] Bunker 20 may be constructed of any flexible, resilient, and airtight material such as plastic, rubber and the like so that once it is filled with air, it remains inflated for extended periods of time. In a preferred embodiment, bunker 20 is constructed from a polyurethane-coated material. Panels of various shapes are heat-sealed together to form the aforementioned three-dimensional shaped bunkers.

[0037] It must be understood that while Bunker 20 is shown in cylindrical form for illustrative purposes, inflatable bunker 20 may be constructed in a variety of shapes. Such shapes may includes, but are not limited to, spherical, conical, pyramidal, rectangular, cubical or any combination thereof.

[0038] Bunker 20 is anchored to the ground or other surface impact dampening anchor system 30. Anchoring system 30 is comprised of bunker handle 40, impact dampener 50, and anchor adapter 60.

[0039] Bunker handle 40 attaches to and extends outwardly from outer surface 21, and may either be integrally formed during the construction of bunker 20, or affixed thereto after bunker 20 has been partially or fully constructed. In a preferred embodiment, as shown in FIG. 7, bunker handle 40 is comprised of strap 43 and ring 45. Strap 43 and ring 45 are heat welded, bonded, glued, or stitched to outer surface 21 of bunker 20. Ends 43a and 43b of strap 43 are heat welded, bonded, glued or stitched to bunker 20 between outer surface 21 and the underside surface (not shown) of ring 45. Central portion 43c of strap 43 extends outwardly from outer surface 21 of bunker 20, and extends through aperture 45a of ring 45 to form handle loop 47.

[0040] Anchor adapter 60 comprises adapter body 62 having a proximal end region 62a and distal end region 62b. Proximal end region 62a further comprises a connector 64 to secure one end of impact dampener 50. In a preferred embodiment, connector 64 comprises an adapter loop 64a. Distal end region 62b further comprises grommet 66 through which a stake may pass as it is driven into the ground. The diameter 66a of the grommet is slightly larger than the diameter of the stake shaft, yet smaller than the diameter of the stake head to prevent the stake from fully passing therethrough.

[0041] Impact dampener 50 is constructed from a stretchable material to absorb energy from an impact. In a preferred embodiment, impact dampener 50 comprises a bungee cord 52. Bungee cord 52 passes through bunker handle loop 47, and is secured to connector 64 of anchor adapter 60 to form the impact dampening anchor system of the present invention. Alternatively, impact dampener 50 may comprise a rubber band, an elastic band, or spring that is secured between bunker handle loop 47 and connector 64.

[0042] In an alternative embodiment, shown in FIG. 5, bunker 20 is comprised of an upper inflatable portion 22, and a lower weighted base 24. Weighted base 24 may be constructed in the same manner as the inflatable bunker having an outer surface 31 and inner surface 33, inner surface 33 further defining base cavity 35. It is contemplated that weighted base 24 can be constructed using the same materials as inflatable bunker 20, or different materials such as canvas, leather, or other resilient material that is water-proof and puncture resistant. To add weight, base 24 may be filled with water, sand or the like through fill/drain port 200 which extends through outer surface 31 and inner surface 33.

[0043] Upper portion 22 and lower portion 24 may be permanently or removably affixed to one another. In a preferred embodiment, the upper and lower portions stacked upon and removably affixed to one another using mating Velcro® fasteners 25. It is contemplated, however, that other means may also be used to removably affix the upper and lower bunker portions together. These alternative affixing means may include, but are not limited to, buckles and corresponding straps, snaps, buttons and slotted tabs, and the like.

[0044] Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 6, upper bunker portion 22 and lower bunker portion 24 may be formed as one unit comprising two chambers separated by a dividing wall or internal diaphragm 35. The upper chamber may be air filled, while the lower chamber may be filled by a weighting material such as sand, water, wood chips, rubber, plastic shavings, top soil or like.

[0045] Alternatively, bunker 20 may be anchored directly to weighted base 70 as shown in FIG. 8. Impact dampener 50 extends from bunker handle 40 to weighted base handle 80. Weighted base handle 80 may either be integrally formed during the construction of weighted base 70, or affixed thereto after weighted base 70 has been partially or fully constructed in like fashion as bunker handle 40.

[0046] In operation, the first step in preparing the stand-alone inflatable bunker system of the present invention is to inflate bunker 20. Two-way valve 100 is opened, and a motorized or manually operated air pump is directed thereto either directly or indirectly. Air is then introduced into bunker cavity 27 until it is fully inflated to a predetermined pressure setting. In one embodiment, bunker 20 further comprises a pressure relief valve to avoid over-inflation and damage to the bunker. The air pump is the disconnected from two-way valve 100 and the two-way valve capped to prevent air from escaping out to the atmosphere.

[0047] Once fully inflated, bunker 20 can either be used in an indoor arena or outdoor playing field. When used outdoors on a paintball, airsoft or projectile playing field, bunker 20 is strategically placed on the field, and anchored to the ground by impact dampening anchor system 30.

[0048] Impact dampener 50 connects bunker handle 40 to anchor adapter 60. In a preferred embodiment, impact dampener 50 comprises bungee cord 52. Bungee cord 52 passes through bunker handle loop 47 and adapter loop 64a elastically connecting bunker 20 and anchor adapter 60 together. A metal stake is threaded through grommet 66 of anchor adapter 60 and then driven into the ground.

[0049] During a paint pellet match, players dodging bullets on the playing field can seek cover behind the bunkers. Because the bunkers are of stand-alone construction, players no longer have the danger of tripping over feed tubes extending out from a manifold to continuously inflate the bunkers.

[0050] In the event that a player runs into a bunker inadvertently, bunker 20 will travel a given distance depending on the elasticity of bungee cord 52. The stretching motion of the impact dampener absorbs much, if not all, of the force from the impact between the player and the bunker. Once the player moves away from the bunker, the bunker is then pulled into place by the recovering action of the bungee cord. In this manner, players can avoid serious bodily injury and focus their attention on playing the paint pellet war games.

[0051] In one embodiment, bunker 20 may be anchored in place by weighted base 24. Weighted base 24 is constructed in similar fashion as bunker 20. Weighting material such as sand, water or the like is introduced into weighted base portion 24 through fill/drain port 200. Bunker 20 is then stacked on top of weighted base 24, and may be removably affixed thereto by mating Velcro® fasteners 25 located on the bottom of bunker 20 and the top of weighted base 24 respectively. Alternatively, bunker 20 may be fastened to weighted base 24 using buckles and corresponding straps, mating snaps, buttons and slotted tabs and the like. In an alternative embodiment, bunker 20 and weighted base 24 may be permanently affixed to one another as shown in FIG. 6.

[0052] As yet a further embodiment of the invention, bunker 20 is anchored by a plurality of weighting bags 85 that can be connected to the impact dampening anchor systems 30 as shown in FIG. 10. In this embodiment of the invention, a bunker 20 that is fitted to be anchored to the ground by stakes can be retrofitted with weighting bags 85 attached to the impact dampening anchor systems 30 where it is more desirable to use weighting bags 85 as a means of securing the bunker 20 in a stationary place. This enables a bunker 20 of this type to be used in more situations.

[0053] In another embodiment, bunker 20 is anchored to weighted base 70 by impact dampening anchor system 30. Impact dampener 50 connects bunker handle 40 to base handle 80 as shown in FIG. 8. In a preferred embodiment, impact dampener 50 comprises bungee cord 52. Bungee cord 52 passes through bunker handle loop 47 and base loop 70a elastically connecting inflatable bunker 20 and weighted base 70 together.

[0054] In this embodiment, player running into the indoor stand-alone bunker inadvertently can avoid serious bodily injury because, as discussed above, bunker 20 will travel a given distance depending on the elasticity of bungee cord 52. The stretching motion of the impact dampener absorbs much, if not all, of the force from the impact between the player and the bunker.

[0055] Once the game is completed, players may disassemble the stand-alone bunkers. The fill drain ports are opened to deflate the air filled bunker portion, and the empty out the weighting material from the weighted base portion. Once emptied, the bunker and base portions are folded and packed into their respective containers for storage.

[0056] As another aspect of the invention a plurality of bunkers can be used as an inflatable bunker playing field kit 300. In a kit 300 of the claimed invention, a container 310 such as the one shown in FIG. 9 can be used to hold a plurality of bunkers 20 each having anchoring systems 30, a plurality of stakes or weighting bags 85, and a blower 320 for inflating the plurality of bunkers 20.

[0057] As various possible embodiments may be made in the above invention for use for different purposes and as various changes might be made in the embodiments and methods above set forth, it is understood that all of the above matters here set forth or shown in the accompanying drawings are to be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.





 
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