U.S. Army tests cutting-edge parachute system that helps protect cargo

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The U.S. Army have tested a new airbag system that helps protect cargo in emergency drops.

First used during World War II, airdrops have become a common way to resupply troops during battle or provide humanitarian aid to victims of disasters before paramedics arrive on the scene. However, it's challenging to protect the cargo from damage when dropping it out of an aeroplane.

U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground has long been on the cutting edge of developmental and operational testing of new airdrop capabilities, including the Rapid Rigging De-Rigging Airdrop System, or RRDAS, which promises to get soldiers out of a drop zone and into the fight with the equipment they need faster than ever.

Conventional cargo payloads are typically cushioned with a honeycomb-like cardboard material between the vehicle or other heavy items and the steel palette that carries it from an aircraft to the ground.

Even with good cargo parachutes and a perfect landing, multiple layers of the honeycomb will collapse upon impact with the ground. RRDAS dramatically reduces the amount of honeycomb necessary to dissipate the force of impact with 10 reusable airbag modules. The self-inflating airbags can be utilised as low as 750 feet above ground level and carry loads from between 5,000 and 22,000 pounds.

"When it flies through the air, ambient air pressurizes all of the fabric-based airbags," said Maj. Matthew Rohe, Assistant Product Manager for Cargo Aerial Delivery at the U.S. Army Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support. "When it hits the ground, the airbag modules cushion the payload, so we don't need as much honeycomb as in the current design."