The Airborne Direct Detection LIDAR System Will Allow More Accurate Supply Drops to Warfighters

Michigan Aerospace Corporation (MAC), an advanced engineering and products company, today announced that it has been awarded a $3 million contract from the United States Air Force to develop a prototype direct-detection LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) System for precision air delivery. The Air Force often resupplies forward military bases via air drop of large cargo pallets. Accurate knowledge of the winds above the drop zone is key to an accurate delivery. Presently, this is achieved through the release of GPS “sondes” (dropped sensors that radio back weather information to the aircraft) prior to cargo release. The current method often requires the dropping aircraft to execute two or more passes to drop supplies, resulting in extra fuel cost, exposure of the aircraft to hostile threats and inaccurate wind data due to the time lapse between passes.

MAC’s LIDAR system will be demonstrated on board an Air Force aircraft through providing range-resolved atmospheric conditions (wind speed and direction along with air temperature and density) from the aircraft down to the intended drop zone. MAC’s technology will enables high mission flexibility, single-pass capability, increased accuracy of the computed air release point and reduced threat to the delivery aircraft.