Fun with planes, parafoils and robots

Snowflake is a collaboration between Naval Postgraduate School and University of Alabama at Huntsville to develop single and multiple autonomously guided parafoils. The project, described in detail here, uses an Arcturus T-20 UAV to launch the parafoils and a Surveyor SVS-based robot with Inertia Labs Renegade base to autonomously locate the parafoils after landing.

We had the opportunity last week to view Snowflake field tests at CIRPAS McMillan Airfield. The Arcturus launched a pair of Snowflake parafoils from 3500-ft, and upon touchdown, the Snowflake controller transmitted GPS coordinates that were relayed to the robot. The robot then autonomously moved to the transmitted coordinates using a script written in picoC. We witnessed 3 successful UAV launch and robot retrieval cycles. Future tests will include drop of a smaller version of the Surveyor robot by parafoil.


Arcturus ready to launch. Note underwing pod carrying the parafoil.


Parafoil approaching the ground


Robot receives parafoil GPS coordinates


Robot driving through the grass to reach parafoil


Arcturus approaching touchdown

Views: 1042

Comment by iw28 on May 14, 2010 at 10:37am
cool !!!!!

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Comment by Gary Mortimer on May 14, 2010 at 10:46am
Why landing on the runway and not the grass??
Comment by Jack Crossfire on May 14, 2010 at 11:10am
Powered parafoils are the way to go for portability. The problem is control & wind.
Comment by Howard Gordon on May 14, 2010 at 12:54pm
Gary - probably landing on the runway because it was there. The pilot put the plane down on the center line every time, but the skid plate made a lot of noise.
Comment by Scott Plunkett on May 14, 2010 at 8:41pm
It always seemed to me this would be the ideal way to deliver the rescue payload for the Outback Challenge, no power for the parafoil, but a controlled landing to a gps target.

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