Air Transportation: April 22, 2005

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The U.S. Air Force has developed air dropped supply pallets that incorporate GPS and a simple system (of software and hardware) that controls the parafoil (a gliding parachute) so that the pallet can land at a pre-programmed destination. This was fine for a single pallet, but the most effective drops involve many pallets, often dozens, from several aircraft. So the Oynx system was developed, which enabled the many pallets in a swarm to communicate enough to avoid collision, and actually glide in formation. Tests have shown that an Oynx swarm can contain at least fifty pallets, each of which can glide up to fifty kilometers before landing within fifty meters of the GPS location they were programmed to head for. Thus a few C-17s could put over a hundred tons of supplies on the ground within minutes, with pinpoint accuracy, and little risk of pallets colliding with each other in the air.

 


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