The University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) has been awarded a contract to develop a next-generation, fully recyclable cargo pallet for the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) transport aircraft fleet.

The $1.25m contract is awarded under the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Rapid Innovation Fund programme. It requires UDRI to design, prototype and qualify an all-aluminium cargo pallet for use in the C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster and C-5 Galaxy aircraft, as reported by Dayton Business Journal.

A more competitive manufacturing market is set to be created by the new low-cost pallet, and less damage to the environment is set to occur.

UDRI Aerospace Mechanics division research engineer Dan Bowman said the new pallet could potentially replace the current pallet that is made of aluminium with a balsa-wood core.

"A more competitive manufacturing market is set to be created by the new low-cost pallet, and less damage to the environment is set to occur."

As the new pallet will not have a wood core, it will be 100% recyclable, eliminating the requirement for refurbishment, Bowman added.

The existing US Military pallet design is nearly 50 years old, and costs almost as much for refurbishment as it does for the production of new units.

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According to Bowman, the US Military uses 200,000 to 250,000 pallets at any given time.

Work under the contract is scheduled to be performed over the next 21 months.

The 463L specialised air cargo pallet was designed in the late 1950. It currently serves as the primary air cargo pallet for the USAF, and can be unloaded on the ground in peacetime or in combat, or airdropped with a parachute.

The 463L pallet is also known as the HCU-6/E pallet. It is a common size platform for bundling and moving air cargo on roller-type conveyors in terminals, restraint rails, and roller conveyors in aircraft, as well as on cargo loading and unloading systems on ground vehicles.

Other air forces also use the pallet, as do many civilian cargo transport aircraft worldwide.