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The Precision Airdrop System (PADS) Airborne Mission Planner: A System Now Enabling Precision High Altitude Airdrop. Presented at the Aerospace Control and Guidance Systems Committee Meeting Hilton Head Island, South Carolina by Phil Hattis Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, MA October 21, 2005.

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The Precision Airdrop System (PADS)Airborne Mission Planner:A System Now Enabling Precision High Altitude Airdrop

Presented at the Aerospace Control and Guidance Systems Committee Meeting

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

by Phil Hattis

Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, MA

October 21, 2005

  • PADS objectives and architecture
  • Current Precision Airdrop Planning System (PAPS) capabilities
  • PADS features used by PAPS
  • Demonstrated performance
  • Deployment status and next development steps
  • Summary
system objectives

PADS Objectives and Architecture

System Objectives

Overarching Goals

  • Enable precision cargo delivery from high altitude
    • Combat re-supply
    • Humanitarian relief
  • Reduce surface weapon threats to carrier aircraft
    • Enable delivery aircraft to remain near their upper altitude limit for airdrop

Specific PADS Goals

  • Provide a common platform for ground-based and in-flight airdrop Mission Planning (MP)
    • Enable application to ballistic and guided airdrop systems
    • Support both cargo and personnel drops
  • Include advanced wind modeling
  • Make the planning system easy to use and its outputs easy to understand
some mandated pads features

PADS Objectives and Architecture

Some Mandated PADS Features
  • Compatibility with C-130 and C-17 carrier aircraft
  • Computed Air Release Point (CARP) determination on board carrier aircraft
  • Generation of expected delivery footprints (for nominal airdrops and major failure scenarios)
  • PADS “snap-on/snap-off” capability on the carrier aircraft
  • Means to receive wind and mission updates while in transit to the Drop Zone (DZ)
  • Wireless updates of guided airdrop system mission plans while in transit to the DZ
  • The look and feel of the Portable Flight Planning System (PFPS)
  • Easy to understand MP outputs, including data displays over maps or images
pads software components

PADS Objectives and Architecture

PADS Software Components

A laptop personal computer (PC) with the following features

  • The “WindPADS” atmosphere modeling tool provided by Planning Systems, Inc. (PSI)
  • A PAPS that accounts for:
    • Payload weight, aircraft load station, decelerator type
    • Altitude, heading, and airspeed at release
    • Roll-out and decelerator opening models (for ballistic parachutes)
    • 6 degree of freedom (6 DOF) cargo/decelerator descent models
  • A tool to predict the expected payload delivery footprints
  • Means to acquire real-time aircraft state data
  • An easy-to-use PFPS-like Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • A image/map overly display using FalconView including:
    • Desired CARP, and feasible release envelopes for guided airdrops
    • Expected landing footprints (for ballistic parachutes) and expected impact footprints for failed airdrop systems
psi supplied pads block 2 flight hardware components

PADS Objectives and Architecture

PSI-Supplied PADS Block 2 Flight Hardware Components
  • Key Components
  • (clockwise from upper-left)
  • Panasonic CF-29 data processor with 802.11g wireless interface
  • 4-channel UHF radio transmitter
  • Cables and connectors to aircraft interface
  • GPS hand-launched dropsonde (expendable)

Total weight with portable

case: 75 pounds

This page extracted from AIAA paper CP-2005-7070, “On-Board Atmospheric Modeling System to Support Precision Airdrop,” by R. Wright, R. Benney, and J. McHugh, presented at the Infotech@Aerospace Conference, Arlington, Virginia, September 26-29, 2005

pads system features and interfaces

PADS Objectives and Architecture

PADS System Features and Interfaces
  • Wind Data Sources
  • Satellite-Derived
  • TACMET Radiosonde
  • Theater Pilot Reports

Com Satellite

Air Force Weather Agency Atmospheric Forecast Model - High-Resolution Nested Grid Surrounding Drop Zone(s)

5-KM Grid Domain within 15-KM Grid Domain

Combat Track II

Radio Receiver

Aircraft Top Antenna


Secure Interface

Laptop Computer

Guided/SmartAirdrop Systems

Mesoscale 4D Field

Assimilation Processor


GPS Dropsonde

Dropsonde Processor

Airdrop DynamicsSimulation

3D Field - Wind, Density, Pressure for Drop Time

Via 802.11G Wireless

Radio Receiver

PADS-Derived Upload Data

Aircraft Bottom Antenna

Computed Air Release Point (CARP)

Navigator or Navigation System

Aircraft 1553 Data Bus

ballistic parachute support

Current PAPS Capabilities

Ballistic Parachute Support
  • MP support for an expandable set of systems, currently including:
    • G-12 and 26 ft ring-slot hemispherical canopy airdrop systems
      • Enables delivery of payloads in the 2,000 lb class (+/- 25%)
      • Includes treatment of stick releases (multiple load drops on a single pass)
        • Targets the stick’s CARP for any one designated load in a stick
        • Determines expected delivery footprints for each load in a stick
    • Footprint determination for the Tri-wall Aerial Delivery System (TRIADS)
      • Enables airdrop of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)
  • MP parachute trajectory determination accounts for:
    • Aircraft release and roll-out dynamics
    • Canopy opening and deceleration
    • Descent response to 3D wind and density fields
    • Statistical variation in all the above effects
  • TRIADS trajectory determination accounts for:
    • Carrier box release and deceleration dynamics
    • Dispersed MRE statistical response to 3D wind and density fields
guided airdrop support

Current PAPS Capabilities

Guided Airdrop Support
  • Supports an expandable set of cargo airdrop systems, with L/D values ranging from 0.5 to over 4, currently including:
    • Sherpa, Screamer, and the Affordable Guided Airdrop System (AGAS) in the 2,000 lb payload class
    • Screamer and Dragonfly in the 10,000 lb payload class
  • Seeing initial application to personnel airdrops
    • MJN-1, MC-4/5 and variants, as well as a generic canopy capability
  • Derives feasible release zones and preferred CARPS, including for sticks with varied landing targets
  • MP trajectory determination accounts for:
    • System-specific L/D and velocity vs. payload mass characteristics
    • Descent response to 3D wind and density fields
  • Dispersion footprints generated for the following scenarios:
    • Failed canopies
    • Failed guidance and/or control after successful canopy deployment
feasible release cone determination single load

Current PAPS Capabilities

Feasible Release Cone Determination: Single Load

Release Cone Correction Due to Wind Effects

Feasible Release Code Without Wind Correction

feasible release cone determination stick loads

Current PAPS Capabilities

Feasible Release Cone Determination: Stick Loads
  • Illustrated for two loads without wind effects
  • MP can handle multiple load sticks
  • Wind and density effects on all cones assessed before identifying feasible release envelope
interface functionality

PADS Features Used by PAPS

Interface Functionality
  • Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs)
    • Modeled after PFPS Combat Airdrop Planning Software (CAPS) GUIs
    • Accommodates user inputs of payload data before flight
      • Carrier aircraft type; payload mass; cargo bay location; airdrop system type; DZ target; planned release altitude and airspeed; expected weather data source file; etc.
      • Provides resulting CARP and engineering data displays
  • FalconView Overlay Displays
    • Provides visual user cues regarding:
      • CARP locations; landing footprints; feasible release zones; etc.
  • 1553 Bus Interface
    • Provides aircraft navigation data and at-altitude wind estimate
    • Enables monitoring designated bus data
  • Combat Track II CTII Interface
    • Provides secure UHF-link access to flight plan and wind updates during transit to the DZ
  • File Upload Capability
    • Provides an in-transit wireless interface for upload of updated descent mission plans for guided airdrop systems
some pads guis used by paps

PADS Features Used by PAPS

Some PADS GUIs Used by PAPS

Cargo Bay Coordinates

CARP Solution Data

CARP Solution Status Indicator

Payload Locations In Cargo Bay

Top-Level PADS GUI Page Provides Tabbed Data Summaries and Access to all MP functionality

Load & Chute GUI Enables User Input of Payload Data and Displays Resulting Payload Layout in the Cargo Bay

example paps falconview image and map overlay displays

PADS Features Used by PAPS

Example PAPS FalconView Image and Map Overlay Displays

Guidance Failure Footprints

Planned Impact Points

Run In

Nominal Descent Dispersion Footprints



Failed Canopy Dispersion Footprints

Individual Release Envelopes

Ballistic Parachute Nominal and Failure Footprint Displays

Guided Airdrop System Release Envelopes and Failure Footprints

ballistic parachute operational utility evaluation oue results

Demonstrated Performance

Ballistic Parachute Operational Utility Evaluation (OUE) Results

C-130 Results

C-17 Results

Carrier Aircraft Mission Computer Expected Results Using Pre-Flight Wind Data

C-130: 595 m

C:17: 1036 m

  • OUEs involved dozens of 4-payload stick drops using 26 ft ring-slot parachutes accomplished over 2 weeks
  • Missions were executed by regular Air Force flight crews given 1 day of PADS training
  • Drops were a mix of releases from 18,000 and 25,000 ft
  • Accuracy scoring was based on the designated CARP payload in each stick

Carrier Aircraft Mission Computer Expected Results Using PADS-Derived Wind Data

C-130: 492 m

C-17: 486 m

PADS MP Directed Airdrop Results

C-130: 260 m

C-17: 308 m

guided airdrop system demonstration status

Demonstrated Performance

Guided Airdrop System Demonstration Status
  • Numerous guided airdrop system flight tests have been accomplished using PADS-generated mission update files uploaded in transit to the DZ
    • Sherpa, AGAS and Screamer 2,000-lb class systems
    • Dragonfly 10,000-lb class systems
  • All the 2,000-lb class systems have achieved mean accuracies better than 100 m to their targets, including stick releases with scattered targets
  • Despite the still early developmental status of its guidance and control system, the Dragonfly has achieved mean accuracies of about 200 m using PADS generated mission files
deployment status and next development steps
Deployment Status and Next Development Steps
  • PADS is now in initial field use
    • Some military free fall operations now apply PADS to assure personnel jumps from carrier aircraft are within reach of the DZ
    • 2,000 pound-class guided airdrop systems are currently being fielded with PADS MP support capability enabled
  • PADS-enabled precision ballistic parachute and guided airdrop system delivery capabilities to be used to limit the need for hazardous ground convoys in many scenarios
  • Initial PADS MP support capabilities for 10,000 and 30,000 pound class guided and ballistic parachute airdrop systems will be available for field use by the end of the calendar year
  • An open architecture Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) software package for steerable parafoil applications to be hosted on PADS laptops is under development
    • Will be available for upload to compatible guided airdrop systems
    • Designed to provide GN&C for a wide variety of parafoil airdrop systems
  • A Precision Airdrop System (PADS) in-flight Mission Planner (MP) has completed initial development and is now being used in the field
    • Applies high fidelity wind estimates based on data gathered from forecast, in situ measurements, and securely transmitted data
    • Supports ballistic parachute and guided system airdrops of cargo and personnel
    • Has interfaces compatible with the Portable Flight Planning System to assure ease of use by carrier aircraft crew in the field
  • Operation Utility Evaluation from C-130 and C-17 aircraft was completed for ballistic parachute airdrops
    • Major accuracy improvement was demonstrated in comparison to prior high altitude airdrop methods
  • The fielded PADS MP supports a variety of 2,000 pound class airdrop systems
    • Provides mission plan upload capability for guided airdrop systems
  • An extension of the PADS MP to 10,000 and 30,000 pound class airdrops systems is currently in work