New innovator: DRS.ie
Dearbhaile Forde and Justin Conboy of DRS.ie, winners of the 2012 Think Outside the Box Awards
Last year, an idea for a drag-reduction device for trucks beat 360 other entries to take top prize in the Enterprise Ireland/Invest Northern Ireland-sponsored competition, Think Outside the Box.
The idea was proposed by NUI Galway engineering students Justin Conboy and Dearbhaile Forde, who have now set up DRS.ieto commercialise their award-winning product.
“Our [patent-pending] drag-reduction device reduces fuel consumption in trucks by 15 per cent ,which equates to about €10,000 in savings per truck per year,” Conboy says.
“It can also reduce CO2 by 15 tonnes per truck per year and this is proving to be of particular interest to fleets looking to lower their carbon footprint.”
Winning the competition netted the duo €10,000 in start-up capital and they have since been approved for competitive start up funding of €50,000 from Enterprise Ireland.
The partners have worked on all aspects of the prototype and early product development themselves while continuing to study full time.
Their launch product is now about 80 per cent complete and will go on sale in September.
It is currently being fine tuned and tested with the support of the Irish arm of global food service company, Martin Brower, best known for its longstanding supply-chain relationship with McDonald’s.
The product will be made in Ireland with metal and plastic parts coming from two separate manufacturers and final assembly taking place in Galway. Conboy says the company hopes to employ 10 people within the next two years.
“We started by trying to come up with a way to reduce carbon emissions in the transport industry,” he adds.
“One way to do this would have been to make the engine of a vehicle more efficient and reduce the carbon output that way.
“Instead we decided to try and reduce the fuel consumption altogether. This is where the idea to reduce the drag coefficient came from.
“Our device [which sits behind the truck cab] is made from a very durable material. It has two inlets to allow air into the balloon mechanism to inflate it when travelling at speed,” Conboy says.
“This gives it great structure with which to deflect wind away from the leading edge of the container load.
“The device deflates when the truck is travelling at slow speeds. It is suitable for most tucks, is very easy to attach and will pay for itself in three or four months of use. “
Conboy says it may look simple but there is a lot going on beneath the surface and it is this IP that is being patented. “We have done exhaustive market research and there is nothing else like this out there.”