Autonomous Drone Delivery From Airdrop Systems (ADDAS): Aerially Deploying Folding-Wing Drones for Ground Reconnaissance

Extending the long-range capabilities of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is paramount to protecting small Soldier teams operating in remote battlefield scenarios. Currently, many small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) reconnaissance assets have the range necessary to facilitate small-unit missions. The purpose of this paper is to detail the design and testing of a system that fills this capability gap by creating folding-wing drones designed to be aerially deployed from an airdropped dispenser. The dispenser is attached to the Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS), which is an autonomously navigated cargo delivery parafoil that can glide several miles, and which can land within 100 meters of its target. To employ the system, the dispenser is launched from a high-altitude aircraft. The system must survive the opening of the parachute in high speed forward flight and provide cushioning to the drones and other components. Once the JPADS navigates the dispenser to a predetermined altitude and distance from the intended reconnaissance area, the dispenser deploys multiple folding-wing drones. The soldiers on the ground can access the drones’ live video feeds through a handheld video transmitter. The system combines the precision navigation and information-transmission capabilities of the fixed wing drone with the long-range capabilities of the JPADS. With a commercial-off-the-shelf drone as the folding-wing aircraft platform, the team designed a wing connection hub that allows for rapid folding and unfolding of the drone’s wings, a separate canister for each drone within the dispenser, and a dispenser capable of interfacing with both the canisters and the JPADS. Though currently in the technology-demonstration phase of the project, the team envisions the system being fully autonomous from launch of dispenser to end of mission.
Aerospace systems, Aerospace applications, Design
Bluman, J, Carter Vault, D, Soon, WK, Talbott, R, Willis, J, Kopeikin, A, & Prosser, E. "Autonomous Drone Delivery From Airdrop Systems (ADDAS): Aerially Deploying Folding-Wing Drones for Ground Reconnaissance." Proceedings of the ASME 2020 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition. Volume 4: Advances in Aerospace Technology. Virtual, Online. November 16–19, 2020. V004T04A018. ASME.