SHERP vehicles, used to rescue survivors of war in Ukraine, were designed for the Apocalypse
Ukrainian mud has a special type of viscosity. There’s even a word for that time of year when traveling through Ukraine is at its most difficult time: “bezdorizhzhya”, meaning “when roads cease to exist”. It’s the time in spring when the snow melts and everything turns to mud. He was infamous as “Ukraine’s secret weapon” against Russian tanks.
Mud aside, it’s getting harder and harder to get around Ukraine anyway. Minister of Infrastructure, Oleksandr Kubrakov, said earlier this month that 25,000 kilometers of road and more than 300 bridges have been destroyed in the country since Russia launched its invasion on February 24. Combine that with 12.8 million displaced people in Ukraine and hostile airspace that threatens search helicopters, and the challenges of rescuing missing people are simply enormous.
The country has a secret weapon in store to circumvent the problem: a ground vehicle that is quietly at the forefront of humanity’s final frontiers. And in Kanye’s Garage. Experience the search and rescue utility all-terrain vehicle developed by SHERP, a Ukrainian manufacturer of amphibious utility vehicles that overcomes all obstacles and crushes the transport landscape.
And above all, SHERP is an expert in mud. Last month, the Kyiv-based company delivered a fleet of state-of-the-art vehicles to the State Emergency Services Search and Rescue Team in Ukraine. The impact has already been critical, playing an important role in helping Ukrainian emergency services rescue more than 1,500 people and evacuate 1.3 million more since the start of the conflict this year.
“It’s hard to explain in a few words. The capabilities are huge. SHERP CEO Viktoria Tverdokhleb told The Daily Beast. “It is the only vehicle in the world capable of going from water to ice.”
It’s true. In order to reach the inaccessible, SHERP (which also serves as the name of the vehicle) can climb, carry, swim and, in some cases, even fend off bears. The body is hermetically sealed and floats, which means that even if the wheels fall in the middle of a lake, it still won’t sink and can slowly crash to dry land.
SHERP’s unique water-to-ice transition is made possible by a patented tire suspension system. When one tire hits an obstacle, the pressure can be distributed evenly to the others. Then the tires conform to the obstruction for superior grip on surfaces like ice and mud. They can even roll over sharp objects which would usually cause the tires to burst. Like this bed of nails.
SHERP markets its vehicle for its ability to traverse the worst of nature and reach the most remote and inaccessible places, even in harsh natural and weather conditions. This is especially crucial for search and rescue teams operating in Ukraine during melting snow, when mud floods roads and ice breaks up in rivers and lakes. SHERP was born to cross the bezdorizhzhya who made a cemetery of so many Russian tanks.
The original SHERP prototype was designed in 2012 by engineer and inventor Alex Garagashyan and developed by Vladimir Shkolnik and Sergey Samokhvalov, both outdoor enthusiasts.
In 2015, the SHERP UTV entered the mass market, with the opening of its factory in Kyiv. Since then, five iterations of SHERP vehicles have been introduced, including the UGC platform, which is remotely controlled, and the ARK, which features a rear cart that can carry up to 22 people. Today, SHERP has 34 dealers in 15 countries around the world.
The unique capabilities of the amphibious vehicle also caught the attention of scientists from the German Aerospace Center. Since 2019, Armin Wedler, Head of Planetary Exploration and Field Robotics at the German Aerospace Center, has been leading an initiative with the World Food Program (WFP) to create autonomous and remote-controlled SHERP vehicles. The project, called AHEAD (Autonomous Emergency Humanitarian Aid Devices), aims to use Driverless SHERP for deliver WFP supplies to the most dangerous and remote places in South Sudan. AHEAD aims to employ SHERPs on roads that pose the greatest risk to human drivers, such as areas of flash flooding and conflict zones prone to attacks on humanitarian aid convoys.
“It was infamous as “Ukraine’s secret weapon” against Russian tanks.”
“At the end of December, our driver was killed while delivering food to Jonglei [State, South Sudan]. So yes, I think innovation towards vehicle automation would further reduce the chances of people being killed helping others,” Nenad Grkovic, logistics manager at the World Food Program in South Sudan, told The Daily. beast. According to Grkovic, driverless SHERPs could protect aid workers around the world from many other dangers such as malaria, snakebites, landmines and outbreaks of contagious diseases like Ebola and COVID.
SHERP’s final destination, however, might not end at Earth. The larger goal of the German Aerospace Center is to develop vehicles capable of traversing and exploring other planets. And Wedler thinks SHERP has proven itself as a model for such machines.
“We are dedicated to space exploration,” said Wedler “We want to use the [SHERP] technologies in our immediate environment, for the time being. But we are looking for a solution to planetary exploration.
SHERP’s patented tire suspension could also be especially useful in otherworldly terrain. “Airflow or engine outcasts are pumped into the wheels and the wheels heat up so the tires become more flexible for different environments,” Wedler said. Compliant tires could one day help scientists explore some of the deepest lunar craters and some of the tallest Martian mountains.
SHERP’s energy efficiency is also one of its game-changing features. The company’s website indicates that its SHERP N 1200 model uses about 1.3 gallons of diesel per hour while driving, which is less than most heavy-duty trucks. He can wear 86.3 gallons of diesel in a single trip (17.7 gallons in the main tank and 15 gallons built into each wheel). “He can drive something like two days. You can’t win a high-speed race, but no car in the world goes two days without needing gas,” Wedler said.
Conserving fuel is essential for long search missions, but also for the delivery of supplies. Currently, in the hardest-to-reach areas, relief is dropped by air, which is expensive, inaccurate, requires clear skies and calm winds, and can result in a significant carbon footprint.
But SHERPs are able to deliver 1 ton of freight for a quarter of the price compared to the helicopter, says the company. In February 2019, in five weeks, the WFP and AHEAD project delivered 800 metric tons of supplies in a trial with 18 SHERPs— the equivalent of what would normally require 25 parachute drops.
Grkovic is now coordinating a fleet of 50 SHERP vehicles in South Sudan, and the results are final. During floods in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity states, “we could actually drive and see if we can actually do anything to stop the Nile from overflowing,” he said. “We drove and inspected the damage and we built the road and the dyke. If we didn’t have SHERP, it wouldn’t be very fast. »
“He can drive something like two days. You can’t win a high-speed race, but no car in the world goes two days without needing gas.”
— Armin Wedler, German Aerospace Center
To further aid survival in the wild, SHERP surprisingly has almost no electronic equipment. The motor doesn’t even need electricity to run, greatly reducing the risk of breakdowns and giving the driver the ability to fix anything on the spot if it breaks. The right to repair was a deliberate and functional decision, said Tverdokhleb, the company’s CEO. “We want to make a product that’s very easy to fix, because SHERP can go anywhere, and if there’s a problem, we want to have a very easy part or an easy way for you to do it yourself.”
The emergence of SHERP in the market comes at a very opportune time. The amphibious ATV market is expected to nearly double by 2030, according to a study by Future of Market Research. A price tag of around $130,000 is high, but much cheaper than alternative and more reliable search and rescue equipment. The Ukrainian vehicle became so popular that it spawned a number of Russian and Canadian imitators like Big Bo, Chaton and FAT truck.
There’s also simply an appeal for those with the cash and interest to invest in gargantuan machines that can plow through anything. Kanye West recently drove one into a McDonald’s drive-thru during a commercial in this year’s Super Bowl. He keeps a fleet of SHERPs on his property at Wyomingand gave them to friends like 2Chainz and Chris Brown.
Outside of the mainstream, SHERP has also quietly won local “bounty hole” contests in the WE and Canada. “A bounty hole is a large mud pit that is intentionally difficult to cross.” David Ostapiw, off-road enthusiast and owner of the @ostacruiser YouTube channel, told the Daily Beast.
In 2018, when Ostapiw participated in the “Trucks Gone Wild” event at Al Benesocky Filthy Redneck Country Club in Saskatchewan, Canada, the “Impossible Bounty Hole” had not been traversed for three years. But that year, Ostapiw used his SHERP Pro to not only cross the pit without issue, but to cross it again with equal ease. The Impossible Bounty Hole contest quickly banned vehicles with tires of a certain size, or “floaters,” as Ostapiw likes to call them.
“SHERPs are no longer allowed to participate,” Ostapiw said. “It was too easy. They had to ban it.
Testing the limits of exploration and performance is human nature. Whether it’s a rainstorm in South Sudan, a bounty hole in Saskatchewan, or a red desert on Mars, people inherently want to reach the unreachable. And our world’s growing hostility from wildfires, floods, winds and global warming demands new innovations in transportation to take us to more extreme places.
So far, SHERP seems up to the task.