Air Transportation: It Looks Like a Shipping Container That Flies


April 25, 2007: One of the most successful UAVs is one that doesn't have wings, and mainly carries cargo. The CQ-10A SnowGoose is a further development of the Sherpa cargo parachute system (that used GPS and mechanical controls to guide the direction of the descending parachute for pinpoint landings).

The CA-10A has taken that technology one step farther. Using a parafoil (a parachute that can be controlled in such a way that the user can gain altitude and travel over long distances), and a "cargo container" that contains a small propeller and engine, a unique type of UAV has been created. The SnowGoose is basically rectangular box (on skids) with a 115 horsepower engine, fuel supply, parafoil controls, and six cargo compartments. The U.S. Army Special Forces liked it so much that they bought several dozen of them (at about $500,000 each) for use in Afghanistan. The SnowGoose is also used in Iraq, and elsewhere.

The SnowGoose can stay in the air for up to 20 hours, get as high as 18,000 feet, and carry up to 600 pounds of cargo. The Snow Goose is guided by onboard GPS and mechanical flight controls controlled by a special microcomputer. The Special Forces are using them for things like delivering supplies, or dropping psychological warfare leaflets. The UAV is particularly good for delivering supplies to long range patrols, units that need their stuff delivered discretely at night. The SnowGoose does this better than a helicopter or a parachute drop.

The U.S. Army is paying for additional development on the SnowGoose, enabling the UAV to perform recon, as well as supply, missions.


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