Army researcher working to improve airdrop operations

October 05, 2018

By ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • An Army researcher recently participated in a study that is seeking to provide safer high operational tempo airdrop operations for the military
  • The research directly supports new predictive models under development for optimizing aircraft formations based upon atmospheric conditions, for both civilian and military use

ADELPHI, Md. (Oct. 5, 2018) -- A researcher from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory recently participated in a study that is seeking to provide safer high operational tempo airdrop operations for the military.

Dr. David Ligon participated in the Phase III C-17 Formation Spacing Research Project, funded by the Program Executive Office-Soldier, at the Monterey Regional Airport in California.

The C17FSR is a multi-service project led by the Army Test and Evaluation Command and conducted with the Naval Post Graduate School, Air Force and ARL.

The study focuses on improving the understanding of the characteristics of heavy aircraft wingtip wake vortex creation and dissipation in real atmospheric conditions.

According to Ligon, wake vortices from large aircraft are a significant hazard for small aviation and also affect multi-aircraft formations for airdrop.

Ultimately, results of this research will lead to improvements in formation spacing depending upon environmental conditions.

In addition to improving airdrop operations, another goal for this phase of C17FSR was to characterize wake generation and dissipation over an airfield during takeoff and landing operations.

"ARL, and our contractor Simpsons Weather Associates, Inc., provided the entire design, collection and analysis of the measurements of the C-17 wake vortex in-flight," Ligon said. "The analysis results of wake vortex characterizations, as well as background atmospheric conditions, are being utilized by ATEC in the development of a new model for C17 formation spacing with the goal of improving OPTEMPO in airdrop operations. ARL has been the principal player for these measurements during both Phase II (fiscal 2017) and Phase III (fiscal 2018) measurement campaigns."

The research directly supports new predictive models under development for optimizing aircraft formations based upon atmospheric conditions, for both civilian and military use.

Ligon lent his expertise during the intensive field campaign by operating two ground-based Doppler wind Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, systems.

A third airborne LiDAR was operated by Simpsons Weather and Associates as well as personnel from the Naval Post Graduate School.

Ligon's LiDAR measurements very accurately characterized the lower-atmosphere wind flow patterns and the wake turbulence field for the C-17 during landing and takeoff stages.

"I have worked in environmental remote sensing for over 20 years and have been a strong advocate for the use of LiDAR in airborne testing and operations," Ligon said. "Although there have been some use of Doppler LiDAR for characterizing wake vortex from aircraft in flight, our work has significantly advanced both the methodology for measurements as well as new algorithms for wake field characterization from LiDAR-derived data."

ARL will continue to participate as C17FSR-Phase IV is planned for late fiscal 2019 or early fiscal 2020, which will involve multi-aircraft formations and mannequin personnel airdrops.


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: October 5, 2018