The US Army’s new high-precision air drop system can deliver cargo without GPS

air drop cargo us army
When designing new navigational software, the U.S. Army is looking to the past as a source of inspiration for its future technologies. The military branch is using traditional visual-based navigation techniques and sprucing them up with 21st century know-how as they move away from the current GPS technology, reports IEEE Spectrum.

When it works, GPS can pinpoint a location with incredible precision, but the technology is not always accurate. GPS signals often are difficult to obtain in less-than-ideal environments and are susceptible to blocking by enemies. Instead of GPS, the Army is exploring the use of new navigational software for its Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS), that delivers necessary supplies to troops in the field.

Instead of GPS coordinates, the new navigational software relies on “old school” imagery to locate a drop point. “It’s what we humans have been using since the beginning of time, vision-based navigation,” said Gary Thibault, supervisory mechanical engineer for the Airdrop/Aerial Delivery program in the office of the U.S. Army’s Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems. The new system is being developed by Draper Lab in Cambridge, Mass, along with assistance from the Army, Air Force, and other non-military entities.

Related: The iconic Jeep Wrangler might follow in the Willys’ footsteps and enlist in the army

The new vision-based software called “Lost Robot.” determines its location by scanning images captured from a camera mounted on the cargo that is being dropped. Algorithms are used to identify notable ground terrain features such as trees and buildings, and the system then compares those structures with satellite images stored in a JPADS database on the cargo itself. This information is gathered before cargo release, allowing the cargo to identify its location and guide its trajectory without external assistance, and without susceptibility to external blocking efforts.

To meet military standards, the new JPADS system has to deliver up to 10,000 pounds of cargo to target within 250 meters. Existing GPS solution are capable of dropping 2,000 pounds within 150 meters of a target. If successful, the new image-based JPADS could be adapted for use in other branches of the military, including drone surveillance and remote unmanned vehicle control. It also could be used to guide paratroopers as they descend to a target area.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

HBO’s Game of Thrones episode 3 preview looks ahead to the Battle of Winterfell

HBO released a brief video that teases the upcoming third episode of Game of Thrones' eighth and final season. It will feature the long-awaited Battle of Winterfell that pits the show's key characters against The Night King's undead army.
Mobile

These are the key settings to change on the LG G8 ThinQ smartphone

The LG G8 ThinQ is finally available. There are a lot of settings turned off by default that may be useful in improving the experience of using the phone. We've rounded up 11 key settings for you to change on the G8.
Cars

Carbuying can be tiring: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.
Gaming

Kick off your streaming career with our complete guide to Twitch broadcasting

Streaming games on Twitch for the first time can be daunting to say the least, but with a few simple steps, it's remarkably easy to do. Here's how to do so using a PC, Mac, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4 console.
Emerging Tech

Star gives off superflare equal to 80 billion megatonnes of TNT. That’s a lot

A tiny star the size of Jupiter has been observed giving off a massive superflare 10 times more powerful than any flare from our Sun. The findings are raising questions about how much energy small stars can hold.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

SpaceX experiences problem during test, Crew Dragon capsule may have exploded

SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred which lead to plumes of smoke rising from the test site.
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…