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Aerodynamic Decelerator Systems Center

Snowflake: Miniature High-Percision Parafoil Delivery System

[Overview] [Publications] [Video_Clips]



This ongoing research involving collaboration between NPS and University of Alabama in Huntsville (Huntsville, AL) is funded by the U.S Army Special Operations Command. The main objective of this research is the development of a prototype of a miniature precision airdrop system to evaluate some advanced concepts in controlling single and multiple (during mass airdrop) autonomously guided parafoils. These concepts include (but not limited to) building a peer-to-peer networking frame with multiple ADS being its nodes, achieving a pinpoint accuracy for delivery of mission-critical payload, developing flocking and collision avoidance (deconfliction) capabilities, computing reachability sets to resupply troops at multiple locations in a timely manner, usage of unpowered and powered parafoils in the urban warfare, exploring capabilities of the larger powered parafoil system to deliver and deploy smaller ones, and others.
The first demonstration of the system took place during Tactical Network Topology (TNT) experiments at the McMillan airfield, Camp Roberts, CA on May 15th (prior to that several drops were made at the McMillan airfield (CA62) and Marina airport (KOAR)). Figure A shows the 5-lb version of the Snowflake ADS and Fig.2 demonstrates the GN&C unit.



Figure A. The Snowflake ADS.

Figure B. The GN&C unit.

In the total, during TNT experiments three Snowflake ADS were deployed over the McMillan airfield (Fig.C) from 1,900ft AGL altitude. All three systems were deployed from Cessna-172SP aircraft (Fig.D) flying at about 70kt.



Figure C. The McMillan airfield.

Figure D. The Snowflake ADS deployment unit.

All three systems had a clean canopy opening and behaved as predicted switching from one phase of the GN&C algorithm to another. Although the touchdown accuracy was not the main objective for this first set of experiments, the three deployed systems demonstrated only 62m circular error probable, which happens to be very competitive compared to other autonomously guided ADS.


[Overview] [Publications] [Video_Clips]

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