Howell firm turning shipping containers into portable hospital rooms

HOWELL—Highland Engineering Inc., the Howell-based supplier of portable power distribution and other equipment to the military and humanitarian agencies, announced a partnership with the Florida defense contractor UTS Systems and the Delta Flight Products unit of Delta Air Lines to convert 40-foot shipping containers into rapidly-deployable, reusable hospital care pods that attach inside military transport aircraft as part of the global effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the United States military puts out the call to answer a complex challenge to help our servicemembers, HEI has been proud to answer that call for 25 years,” said Ralph Beebe, president of Highland Engineering. “As a Michigan-based company, the opportunity to partner with Delta Air Lines to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic was one we jumped at, in addition to our wonderful lead partner at UTS.”

Added UTS CEO Tom Eggers: “Crisis is our business. We are thrilled to work with HEI and Delta on this innovative, mission-tailored solution just as we have done for the past two decades. We all care deeply about the mission and those willing to sacrifice it all to keep us safe. UTS is proud to play a small part in protecting those who protect us.”

Early this week, in just two weeks from award, the partners delivered an initial prototype of the Negatively Pressured Conex (NPC) to the U.S. military at Joint Base Charleston, a U.S. Air Force and Navy base in North Charleston, N.C. Following review, the UTS/HEI/Delta team expects to deliver 25 units in the coming months, with the opportunity for an additional 50. The group of contractors and engineers moved quickly to source materials, develop a project plan and mobilize teams to meet the aggressive timeline.

Developed in response to a Joint Urgent Operational Need (JUON) from United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), the NPC will be fitted to fly on the C-17 and C-5 fleet and will allow for the safe transport of COVID-19-impacted passengers in the upcoming months.

Highland Engineering, founded in 1986, manufactures a wide variety of portable systems for military, humanitarian, and industrial applications. Included are portable power and water distribution systems; portable kitchens, laundries, showers, and refrigeration units; factory automation systems; and metal stamping and welding services. More at

UTS manufactures portable shelter and power generation and distribution systems. More at

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