News | Dec 4, 2018

Incoming! Army invents package delivery via cannon

A Marine pulls a cord to fire a 120-mm mortar.

Nicholas Guevara/USMC

Forget drones, the U.S. Army has come up with a way to deliver packages with a hollow mortar round and parachute.

The patent title, “Ammunition Resupply Projectile,” doesn’t really do justice to the obvious non-military applications that are now possible, specifically Amazon employees hollering “fire for effect!” as they lob Christmas presents at your doorstep.

But rightly so, the Army had another mission in mind. Troops need urgent resupply of small items such as ammunition and that can take hours, days, or weeks as helicopters or ground convoys are mustered. But why not just ask the mortar section? Boom!

When the payload separates from round it takes with it a guidance and navigation system that controls the parafoil that unfolds, guiding the delivery to within 10 meters (32 feet) of the target. (The 120-millimeter mortar used by the U.S. military has a range of about 5 miles.)

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Enhanced illustration of U.S. Patent 9,500,454

Troy Carter/TechLink

“This concept allows a guided package to be delivered with incredible accuracy within minutes,” said Ryan Decker, one of seven inventors.

Decker, a lead mechanical engineer for the Engineering Analysis and Evaluation Division, part of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, said there were several inspirations for the design.

“The first being the idea of a soldier pinned down during battle, who depletes his supply of ammunition and currently has no reasonable method of resupply until rescue arrives,” Decker said.

“The second source of inspiration was the development of the ‘Snowflake‘ miniature guided parafoil system by Professor Oleg Yakimenko of the Naval Postgraduate School,” he said. (Yakimenko is also one of the seven patent recipients.)

“His system was so small that it could be packed into the volume of a cargo projectile. His well-proven guidance algorithm was also the most accurate in the world, enabling precision resupply to a stranded soldier.”

Others named on the patent are ARDEC engineers Raymond Chaplin, Douglas Chesnulovitch, Gary Dundon, Gregory Farbanish, and Michael Hollis.

“This invention is even more beneficial when it is realized that the payload can be easily swapped from ammunition to any device of similar size such as additional resupply items, surveillance electronics, or even a submunition which can all be delivered accurately and on target,” said Decker.

Can Amazon use the technology to make deliveries? Maybe.

Inventions patented by the Department of Defense are available to businesses, large and small, for turning into new products and services. To do so, they need a patent license agreement.

TechLink, the DoD’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer, is willing and able to help businesses interested in this technology learn more about licensing it, which includes the development of a patent license application and commercialization plan.

Headshot Image of Brian Metzger, PhD, CLP

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