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At maxon, we develop and build high precision electric drive systems that are among the best in the world. We combine brushed and brushless DC motors, gearheads, sensors, and controllers into complete mechatronic drive systems.

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Precision Guided Parachutes

POSTED 12/22/2009

Used to deliver critical cargo, these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) provide unprecedented accuracies in flight. 

The Onyx guided parachute designed and manufactured by Atair Aerospace (NY) is an autonomous precision airdrop system. Each system fulfills the precision airdrop requirements under the U.S. Army's Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) program, which was developed to transition the U.S. military's WWII-era low-altitude, low-accuracy, high-vulnerability airdrop practices into the twenty-first century. Atair's Onyx is a family of fielded, commercial off-the-shelf systems designed with the capabilities of delivering payloads ranging from 0 lbs to 2200 lbs, through the use of a variety of sized UAVs. 

Onyx systems can be likened to smart bombs, but are used for the safe, precision delivery of sensitive or essential cargo to difficult to reach or dangerous locations. Each system is deployed from the air using military fixed-wing and/or rotary aircraft, such as a C-130 or C-17. Deployment can happen at altitudes up to 35,000 ft and at speeds up to 150 KIAS. The systems autonomously glide over 44 km and land cargo within 100 m of its selected target. Onyx systems provide military planners with the capability of strategically and covertly positioning equipment and supplies for rapidly moving ground and special operations forces. Onyx systems can also be used for the precision emplacement of unattended ground sensors and small munitions deployed from military aircraft and UAVs.

Key Features of Onyx Systems 

  • Available in three payload configurations: Micro Onyx (0 to 20 lbs), Onyx 500 (0 to 500 lbs), and Onyx 2200 (500 to 2200 lbs)
  • Accuracy of 100 m
  • Patented1 two-parachute ("hybrid") system uses a high-speed elliptical parafoil for autonomous guidance, and a round recovery parachute for a reliably soft landing
  • Flocking/Swarming (formation flying) and active in-air Collision Avoidance for simultaneous deployment of up to 50 Onyx systems
  • Adaptive Control, an advanced self-learning method for flight control, enables gross variances in cargo weights to be airdropped
  • High glide ratio over 4.5:1 provides a horizontal standoff of 44 km from an altitude of 35,000 ft
  • Deployable from military fixed-wing and rotary aircraft up to 150 KIAS
  • Ultra fast flight speed (80 kts) increases accuracy and reduces vulnerability to wind-induced errors and detection 
  • Continuously dis-reefed guidance parafoil provides for lowest opening shock and high speed deployment capabilities
  • Rigger-friendly, fully-recoverable, modular, and reusable system
  • Onyx 2200 is fully compatible with A-22 CDS bundles