KiraVan Terrestrial Spaceship

By: on August 12, 2014

eleMMent Palazzo, Bran Ferren sees your land yacht, and raises you 1 terrestrial spaceship. He calls it the KiraVan, after his daughter.

A monster of a truck/tractor/trailer/RV...with a turbo-diesel motorcycle stored in an elevator system at the rear thrown in for good measure...the KiraVan might be the most extreme combination of power, ruggedness, and luxury ever to hit the road. And the off-road, which Ferren optimized his spaceship on wheels to tackle just as easily as the highway.

The front end, tractor portion of the the KiraVan is a modified Mercedes-Benz Unimog U500NA. It's powered by a Mercedes-Benz 6-cylinder in-line 260HP turbo-diesel engine, high-efficiency, intercooled, and capable of providing 700ft-lb of torque. Extending from the tractor is a "trailer" that pretty much transcends the term in every way possible. While connected the trailer can share power, pneumatics, hydraulics, networks, and communications with the KiraVan tractor. It is also fully operational as a solo module and stationary base if the tractor is physically disconnected (the two vehicles remain data-connected and may perform coordinated tasks regardless of physical proximity).

KiraVan trailers have a hydrostatically driven axle, coordinated long-throw hydro-pneumatic suspension and Central Tire Inflation system, and a 2-axis articulated fifth wheel to meet off-road demands smoothly and without breaking in half. The trailer also boasts a composite rising-roof structural design with crew and technical E/O cabins, 2 SwingOut expansion compartments for the galley kitchen and bathroom/entryway, and a roof mounted tent-style sleeper penthouse.

And at the top of the back end's elevator? The KiraBike, with a 100 mpg fuel economy pumped out from a three-cylinder CDI turbo-diesel engine and CVT-type transmission. The motorcycle has secure VHF and UHF voice and data communications, plus a removable onboard tablet for email, Internet access, maps, photo documentation, and mission support.

Obviously, the KiraVan is huge. Specifically, 52' long from tractor front to trailer rear, with the KiraBike mounted on its carrier. Its maximum gross weight: 51,700 pounds. Probably gets 4 miles to the gallon, right? Ferren thought of that too, so no, a little better. A 170 gallon diesel or bio-diesel fuel tank can last for up to 2,000 miles over average terrain. In terms of interior and storage space, the KiraVan can support 3 people with enough food, water, and expendables to last them 3 weeks without re-upping at the 7-11.

Additional KiraVan specs (taken directly from the KiraVan Website) include:

  • COMPUTERS AND NETWORKS. A full system of embedded, server, and portable computers communicate over multiple wired and wireless data networks to host the vehicle control systems and a wide variety of software programs and applications. Wireless satellite broadband provides a maximum 5Mbps uplink and 10Mbps downlink.
  • POSITION, NAVIGATION, AND TIMING SYSTEMS. A series of GNSS receivers (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou frequency compatible) provide time and frequency correction information to the onboard rubidium frequency standards, as well as precision 3D location information. When no GNSS signals are receivable, an onboard inertial measurement unit (IMU) employing precision accelerometers and fiber optic gyros maintains position, course, and velocity knowledge.
  • SECURE VOICE AND DATA COMMUNICATIONS. The KiraVan has multiple communications systems for voice and data, designed to support local line of sight (LOS) and global communications everywhere on earth. This includes difficult locations such as remote canyons, triple-canopy rain forests, and polar regions where traditional satellite communication is ineffective. All voice and data traffic may be encrypted except on amateur radio bands. The vehicle and radio operators are licensed for operation on both commercial and amateur bands, as well as for communication with aircraft for local filming and mission coordination.
  • FIRE PROTECTION AND SECURITY SYSTEMS. The vehicles are continuously monitored for heat, smoke, combustion byproducts, and for direct flame by UV/IR flame detectors. Automatic aqueous foam fire extinguishers are provided for each engine (but may also be discharged manually), and Halotron extinguishers are accessible in the cabins and technical areas. The vehicle also incorporates a comprehensive security system, including remote vehicle tracking.
  • WATER SYSTEMS. The vehicle offers 150 gallons of fresh water storage capacity and on-board particulate, ceramic silver anti-microbial, activated carbon, and Ultra Violet filteration systems. When new water is taken on, it is pre-filtered, and salt water may be desalinized by a reverse-osmosis filtration system carried when needed.
  • PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGING AND DOCUMENTATION. The mast based Electro-Optical (EO) systems allow for high definition imaging in the immediate proximity of the vehicles or at substantial distance. Long-range optics provide views with visible, FLIR, and intensified night vision imagers. A bore sighted eye-safe laser rangefinder on the EO mast provides precision range of up to 40km to a reflective object. The EO system may be used to capture still images or film (plus location data) or may be used to automatically generate gigabit panoramas. Portable video and still imaging gear is also always carried.
  • SITE SURVEY AND MAPPING. A complete GIS survey and mapping suite, along with the Electro-Optical systems and portable survey gear, permits thorough photo-documentation (still or video) of a site (such as an archaeological dig) with centimeter precision. Local or remote map databases may be used and ortho-rectified as needed. A laser total station and an RTK-capable rover GPS are always carried.
  • INTERCOMS AND VIDEOCONFERENCING. Each KiraVan has provisions for telepresence on the move, as well as integrated communications between all vehicles and outside parties. Connectivity is via SATCOM or terrestrial data networks to the Internet.
  • REMOTE UAV/UGV/USV VEHICLE CONTROL AND TELEMETRY. Both vehicles have the ability to remotely control land, sea, or air vehicles. The command and control link is at UHF frequencies with return telemetry and two channels of high definition video at S-band. The command signals are radiated at high power by a 360-degree double bi-conic array, and return telemetry is received by both auto-tracking Yagi and omni-directional antennas.
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