Edwards Air Force Base has tested billions of dollars in defense-related technology over the course of its history, from the sound barrier-busting Bell X-1 to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
But this week, researchers at the base in eastern Kern County tested an innovative use of already existing technology — cobbled together for a whopping 1,600 bucks.
On Tuesday, two teams at Edwards collaborated for the first flight test of what they described as a remotely piloted parachute system that could save thousands of dollars in operational testing costs, said Chris Klug, a technical advisor from the base’s XCITE innovation team who sponsored the project from start to finish.
“It’s really similar to the hydraulics on a tractor, but it’s electrical rather than hydraulics,” Klug said of the inexpensive system.
The 412th Operations Support Squadron Airdrop Research and Development Parachute Test Team — now you know why the military uses acronyms — and the innovation team worked together to develop the low-cost, locally built guidance system.
There’s been a renewed focus, Klug said, on harnessing “the innovative minds of people throughout our organization.” And this project, designed and built by team member Trever Bush, is just one example.
Before a new parachute is ever used by humans, it is dropped using mannequins, or dummies, specifically designed for parachute testing. Once clear of the aircraft, the mannequins are typically at the mercy of the winds as they obviously cannot control the toggles — the parachute’s control handles.
The remote system is designed to manipulate the toggles, Bush said, much the same way a live jumper would, allowing some control over the descent of the parachute and its cargo.
And on Tuesday, they tried it out for the first time, as seen in the video accompanying this story. An operator on the…