Airdrop Irrigation System

Cal Courneya's patented 1970's design, redux & w/o credit...



"The cost to Australia from climate change is going to be greater than for any developed country, We are already starting to see it. It's tearing apart the life-support system that gives us this world." (Cart, 2009)

The effects of climate change on Australia are accelerating at an alarming rate. Only last year regions like the Murray Darling were experiencing the worst drought in a century, which lasted for 12 years and resulted in irreversible damage to ecosystems, widespread wildlife decline and catastrophic bushfire conditions. Agriculture in the region suffered record losses. An alarming figure of one rancher or farmer a week were taking their own life, as years of drought resulted in failed crops, mounting debt and slowly decaying towns. Although 2010 has brought much needed rainfall to the area, other parts of Australia are continuing to suffer drought. The southwest corner of the country has experienced its driest year to date. Scientific projections indicate as temperatures continue to increase so to will the severity, frequency and duration of droughts worldwide.

Extensive research into droughts revealed an increase in soil evaporation and trans-evaporation (plant and soil) due to the increasing temperatures. Airdrop irrigation returns moisture to the soil by literally feeding the humid air from the atmosphere back under the ground.

There are various atmospheric water harvesting technologies that exist today, but most are high-tech and expensive: not ideal for the rural farmer market. The Airdrop irrigation system is a low-tech, self sufficient solar powered solution: an innovation bread of comprehensive investigations into rural agricultural environments, developed through working with irrigation manufacturers and local farmers, and refined by extensive prototyping with successful results. The final prototype of a scaled down unit produced close to a liter of water out of the air in a day. Further testing in a variety of conditions is necessary to confirm the results.

The Airdrop Irrigation project won the 2011 Global James Dyson Award, received an Honourable Mention in the 2011 Australian Design Awards - James Dyson Award, and received 3rd prize in the Cumulus Association 20th Anniversary International Student Competition.

Dyson Awards: Edward Linnacre's AirDrop Irrigation

Interview with 2011 Dyson Award Winner Edward Linacre

Airdrop, Which Harvests Moisture Directly From Desert Air,
Wins James Dyson Award


Clay Dillow

The James Dyson Award winners for 2011 have been announced, and the grand prize winner is a piece of clever biomimicry that sits so perfectly in our wheelhouse that we couldn't resist the urge to write about it. Edward Linacre of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has tapped the Namib beetle--a desert dwelling species that survives in the most arid conditions on Earth--to create an irrigation system that can pull liquid moisture straight out of dry desert air.

Airdrop, as the system is known, borrows a trick from the Namib beetle, which can live in areas that receive just half an inch of rain per year by harvesting the moisture from the air that condenses on its back during the early morning hours. A hydrophilic skin helps to snare water molecules passing on the breeze, which then accumulate into droplets of consumable liquid water.

Airdrop mimics this idea, though on a larger scale. The self-powering device pumps water into a network of underground pipes, where it cools enough for water to condensate. From there the moisture is delivered to the roots of nearby plants. Linacre's math shows that about 11.5 milliliters can be harvested from every cubic meter of air, and further development could raise that number even higher.

Such a system could provide regular moisture to plants being grown in the world's driest regions. And because it is low cost and self-powered, there's not a lot of investment or maintenance involved in deploying Airdrop. The $14,000 award from Dyson (Linacre's university also gets an additional $14,000) should help speed that along.

This year's runners up included a quickly deployable divider for medical settings that lets healthcare professionals make the most of available space and an aide for the blind that uses a special cane and location-based social networking apps to help the visually impaired locate their friends. All of this year's entries can be seen here :

Global Water-from-Air resource map:

Water-from-Air Resource Charts for selected locations:

And for single-family households, there’s also the Water Mill :

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