Inventor wants to take his 'survival capsule' over Niagara Falls

MUKILTEO, Wash. -- A Mukilteo man has invented a product that he claims could save thousands of lives during a tsunami, and now he wants to put it -- and himself -- to the ultimate test.

Julian Sharpe runs a room of engineers who conduct aerospace stress analysis, making sure the inside of airplanes can handle the elements outside.

But Sharpe's latest brainstorm happened on Cannon Beach in Oregon, surrounded by evacuation signs.

"I thought, what could I design as an aerospace stress engineer that I could get into easily that will survive the tsunami and provide shelter in the post-tsunami stage? And I came up with this idea," Sharpe said of his tsunami survival capsule.

The 280-pound aluminum capsule prototype is receiving a lot of attention in Japan, where thousands died in a 2011 tsunami.

Sharpe said the spheres could be stored on the roofs of businesses and in backyards, tethered to cables in case waves carry people away.

"The socket here is an international marine socket, so coast guards and rescue people will have this key," Sharpe said.

Creators of the capsule have tested it to make sure it can handle temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees and the weight of nine cars. They also tested the capsule by dropping it at 18 miles per hour onto concrete, with sandbags inside standing in for people.

The sandbags broke open on impact, but other than that, Sharpe said the capsule worked perfectly. In fact, he's willing to wage his life on it.

"We started this venture, we're responsible, so we've got to take the risk," he said.

In order to help spread the word about about survivor capsules, Sharpe is seeking permission to take a six-seater over Niagara Falls.

"The Niagara Falls idea is purely a media stunt," Sharpe said.

He said he's sure he'll survive the drop, and he's hopeful that his capsules -- which could cost $8,000 each -- will take off and save lives.

"A quarter million people in one tsunami is far too many," he said.

Sharpe said his team will try the Niagara Falls stunt with crash test dummies first, and if that goes well they might auction off four seats inside the capsule to raise money for charities.