You are here

Reduced Signature Powered Parafoils


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, 

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate innovative methods, materials, mechanisms and/or technologies to reduce the acoustic, visual, IR, and/or other radar signatures of traditional, commercial off the shelf powered parafoil systems for personnel and/or cargo. 

DESCRIPTION: The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, Soldier Center (CCDC-SC), Aerial Delivery Directorate (ADD) is looking to investigate innovative approaches for powered parafoil that have a reduced signature compared to traditional, commercial off the shelf systems (COTS). Paratrooper and aerial resupply operations are typically conducted from aircraft dropping either guided or unguided parachutes; meaning the range is determined by the aircraft’s altitude, parachute’s glide slope, and weather conditions. Adding a motor to the system can increase its range, thereby reducing the aircraft’s signature and, possibly, eliminate the need for airdropping the system. Increasing the range allows for further aircraft standoff, keeping aircraft away from the enemy. Without the need for an aircraft, powered parafoils enable ship to shore or ground to ground resupply. Once on the ground, a current parachute and JPADS systems are the responsibility of the Soldier but with the ability for a powered parafoil take off and autonomously return to launch; the responsibility of the system is lifted from the Soldier and powered parafoil can be refitted to be used again. Given the capability of a powered parafoil to autonomously and covertly deliver itself to a Soldier, the Soldier could leave an area without detection and without carrying all the equipment for flight throughout the mission. Powered parafoils can have a greater mass delivered to cost compared to a Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) but can often be detected by the noise from the motor and propeller and their slowly moving radar/IR signatures. CCDC-SC, ADD is interested in technologies that can reduce one or more aspects of the vehicle's signature, with particular interest in reducing the acoustic, visual, IR, or other radar signature. Specific manned and/or unmanned vehicles have not been identified, so technologies that have a more general application across a range of systems are of interest. Final system should be scalable for payloads from 25 lbs. to 500 lbs. and capable of traveling 500 km, in zero wind conditions. Reduction in acoustic, visual, IR, other radar should be shown compared to an unmodified COTS system at 100, 500, and 1000 feet, showing a minimal 20% reduction. Modifications should not increase the system procurement to more than 40% original cost. 

PHASE I: Identify multiple solutions to reducing the signature of powered parafoils which would advance the current state of the art. Develop detailed analysis of predicted performance. If parafoil rigging materials (ropes, cords, suspension lines, slings, etc.) foreign to aerial delivery applications are used, conduct stress/strain, porosity and yield testing on swatches of material to quantify essential material properties. Phase I deliverables include a report detailing all procedures employed in the research, all results of tests conducted, all potential technologies reviewed, samples of materials or small scale prototypes, milestones to be accomplished in Phase II, a recommended path forward and cost estimate to a) reduce the signature of a COTS technology or b) design of a new technology to replace a COTS technology. 

PHASE II: Design and construct prototype systems using the material and/or design identified in Phase I; prototypes should be capable of lifting at least 100 lbs. to ensure signature is comparable to final product. Demonstrate operation of the prototype systems in a relevant environment. This could entail releasing the system from either a fixed or rotary wing aircraft and/or ground take-off/landing to assess airworthiness in the airdrop environment and quantify usability and survivability of the solution. Prototype may have automated guidance, remote control or manned operator and repeat testing of the prototype systems to assess operational life of the system. Phase II deliverables include any prototype devices constructed, a technical data package detailing the material/methods/mechanism designs, a demonstration of the prototype system/device to include dynamic airdrops of the system, and a report detailing all Phase II work, a recommended path forward, and updated cost estimate to a) reduce the signature of a COTS technology or b) design of a new technology to replace a COTS technology for a range of quantities. 

PHASE III: Powered parafoils can enable applications that today are not feasible. They require minimal infrastructure, have the ability to enter and depart locations that classic ground, fixed or rotary wing aircraft have difficulty reaching or be considered a high risk. They can move a considerable amount of mass, over greater distances, at a lower cost than an alternative UAS. With total loss of power, parafoil will return mass to the ground at a lower descent rate, compared to a multi-rotor UAS, enabling entrance into urban areas. Reducing the signature will allow for covert missions or exfiltration at minimal detections risks and great distances. Reduced signature will obscure the sources of resupply as the parafoil could only be detected at the last moments of flight. While powered parafoils are already used, quieter engines can be used for less unobtrusive nature studies. Given the capability of a powered parafoil to autonomously and covertly deliver itself, anyone could then be exfiltrated without detection. With drone delivery currently passing regulatory hurdles, this technology could minimize the impact of hefty deliveries into everyday life. 


1: Designing For Internal Aerial Delivery In Fixed Wing Aircraft, MIL-STD-1791, 23 Oct 2017

KEYWORDS: Reduced Signature, Powered Parafoils, Parachute, IR, Acoustics 

US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government