GPS-guided parachute stages tests out of IYK

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

GPS-guided parachute stages tests out of IYKA GPS-guided parachute Mist Mobility Integrated Systems Tech-nology Inc. touted as the “leader in precision aerial delivery systems” spent the last two weeks at Inyokern Airport in a series of tests the company staged for one of its latest developments.

Alexandre Cote, product manager for the MMIST’s Sherpa program, said that he was pleased with his company’s experience in the Indian Wells Valley.

The technology involves an unmanned delivery system that allows for real-time, precision aerial delivery that can penetrate territory up to 20 miles away from an offset drop.

“The towns of Inyokern and Ridgecrest, all the people we worked with on base as well as some of the local businesses, have been awesome to us,” said Cote.

During this trip, the team focused on refining its technique for offloading its HALO [high-altitude, low-opening] programmable drogue-delay Sherpa system. Cote said the purpose of HALO is to offer a safe, speedy cargo delivery from altitudes as high as 35,000 feet, while allowing the end user to select the parachute opening altitude, thus allowing the flexibility of either long or short drogue freefalls.

Besides the obvious advantage of speed (deploying the chute late can reduce drop time from 30 minutes to 30 seconds), it also aids in detection avoidance. “Additionally, since air support can be called off during drone-based resupply, reducing drop time becomes a priority for the solider on the ground,” said Cote.

The current (but expensive) way to unload heavy aerial delivery platforms calls for a separate parachute system to quickly extract the payload from the plane. During the last two weeks, MMIST has been refining gravity-based extraction as an alternate solution.

The range cameras captured these tests — including some picture-perfect runs.

“Ultimately, the reason we came here for this test was because of the accommodation the base was willing to make in terms of our special requests,” said Cote. “We wanted to have jumpers land on the ranges and to perform night missions— this was not available at any other base.”

Cote said that the Sherpa system — used by more than 20 countries internationally — has military, commercial and humanitarian applications. He showed various metrics that compared the use of his unmanned guidance system with traditional methods such as manned convoys. They showed similar reach and flexibility at a greatly reduced cost.

More important than the savings of dollars, he said, is the shifting of risk from a human participant to an automated system. “That’s really what everything about this technology comes down to — preserving human life.”

MMIST is an offshoot of Integrated Systems Technology, which was based in South Africa in the 1990s. By the time Cote joined the mobile branch of the company, bringing with him experience in computer science as well as flight instruction, the company was based in Canada.

“We have a long history of working with U.S. military services, including the Office of Naval Research, but also remain the leading company internationally,” he said.

“We were glad to have MMIST back at IYK — they’ve been a great group to work with and I look forward to hosting them again,” said airport CEO Scott Seymour. “Their GPS-guided parachute technology is really interesting, but they also have an unmanned aerial vehicle that I think would be perfect for the kind of testing we can accommodate out here.”

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Story First Published: 2013-01-23