Latest tech a game changer for Air Force

24 May 2024

The accuracy with which tactical defence and disaster relief payloads are delivered is set to be revolutionised thanks to the cutting-edge work of a team in the Jericho Disruption Innovation Program at RAAF Base Edinburgh.

The team is currently fine-tuning a technology that will allow air drops of communications or relief supplies to be delivered with pinpoint accuracy on both land and at sea.

The Air Launched Delivery Drone or 'Aladdin' will open up limitless opportunities for assistance not only in the field of battle or Defence exercises, but in the complex and challenging area of search and rescue, and disaster relief.

Project lead officer Wing Commander Paul Hay said the current focus of Aladdin was on Defence tactical resupply, but believed it would greatly enhance search-and-rescue operations in this region and in the delivery of humanitarian aid during emergencies.

“We are all very excited about the future potential of this technology not only for the defence of the nation, but also its benefits in the civil sector,” Wing Commander Hay said.

“For example, one of the great features of Aladdin that we are actively developing with the technology is its application in search-and-rescue missions or in disaster relief. 

“Where there may be heavy cloud cover above a stricken vessel at sea or similar scenario on land with people stranded, Aladdin can be deployed out of the aircraft and then fly below the clouds, or very thick smoke in the case of a bushfire, where it will then be guided using the on-board camera to fly the specific payload – such as emergency-relief supplies ­­– right next to the survivors.

“This is where we feel Aladdin will be most effective in the short term – assisting people affected by natural disasters in a way they haven’t been before. 

“Its potential to assist emergency services is particularly exciting at a time of more frequent natural emergencies impacting the nation and the region.”

'This opens up countless opportunities to assist in search-and-rescue missions.'

At the moment, Aladdin is being tested using relatively small payloads, but the team are beginning to scale up the weight and size delivered by the guidance system to between 20 and 30kg over the coming months.

“Key to the design of the system will be that anybody can build a payload module to be deployed by Aladdin that is independent of the drone head,” Wing Commander Hay said.

“Navy is now working with us on further developing Aladdin because by mid-year we’re aiming to be able to launch a payload from an aircraft and safely land it on the deck of a moving ship.

“This opens up countless opportunities to assist in search-and-rescue missions because at the moment it’s likely that a helibox launched from a plane would have to be physically retrieved by the crew of a stricken boat in often very harsh conditions on the open sea, rather than being dropped within virtually inches of them on the vessel’s deck. 

“It will also assist in warfare where a communications repeater, sensor or related equipment can be dropped with great accuracy and precision on a mountain top or specific location to assist with communications or surveillance on the battlefield.”

Attendees at the 2024 Air and Space Conference in Canberra were afforded a first look at the Aladdin system where it was on display – turning heads with its impressive cutting-edge technical abilities and design. 

“We at Jericho are really excited about the future of Aladdin and will continue our partnership with Adelaide company Sovereign Propulsion Systems as we test, trial and further evaluate the system – including a potential trial flight from the back of a C-130 later this year,” Wing Commander Hay said.



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