back to article Jumbo-jet sized 'SuperGigaFly' robo parachute tested

Airborne Systems, maker of automatic parachute systems to the likes of Elon Musk's SpaceX private rocket firm, has announced successful tests of the "World's Largest Autonomously Guided Ram-Air Parachute". The GigaFly in action Big enough even for CEO parachute packages. Pic: Airborne Systems. The colossal robo parawing is …


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  1. NRT

    So the next one should be called

    The Terafly!

    It would certainly frighten me.


  2. Alex


    "If transport planes descend below 10,000 feet they become vulnerable to shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles"

    So instead, the payloads will become easy pickings....


  3. Jamie Kitson

    In Real Terms

    How many football fields is 19 tonnes?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great news

    Maybe Gordon Brown can be strapped to one and dumped out of his return flight from the US.

  5. Lewis Page (Written by Reg staff)

    Payloads Easy Pickings ...

    Not really, as shoulder-launched AA missiles track aircraft by their hot engine exhausts. Which parachutes obviously don't have.

  6. Stuart Halliday


    So what happens to the electronic package that comes down with it?

    GPS and wire pulling servos can't be cheap.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Alex

    Since there are no hot pyrotechnics used to open the chute, and no engine with associated hot exhaust powering the parawing, it is immune to heat-seeking SAMs, which cuts out most of the current SAM arsenal available to the third-world and terrorist forces the US will face in the foreseeable future. Drop it at night when GPS will still work fine and optically sighted weapons such as wire-guided anti-tank missiles and RPGs are also a much lower risk, as most of them don't have good enough image intensifier sights (remember, infra-red and thermal sights won't pick the thermally-neutral parawing out against the rest of the sky). Which leaves either radar-guided SAMs or AAA units, either of which are unlikely to survive long in close proximity to the type of large US presence these parawings will be dropped into. And then, radar can be spoofed and jammed, or tricked with decoy parawings. I came up with that in about a minute flat. Still waiting for a pointing-and-laughing icon.

  8. Stuart Van Onselen

    Obvious rebuttal to obvious complaint

    I imagine the Air Force figures that the IR signature of a parachute is just a tad too low for a portable SAM to pick up. And the radar signature would be even smaller - I doubt a thin cloth parachute is much of a radar-reflector, leaving just the small palette to target on.

    Now the best modern MANPADS don't need to target a jet exhaust, they can pick up the IR coming off a friction-hated leading edge. (Say goodbye to your starboard wing. What, you were still using it? My bad!) But even in this case, I'd guess the thin, slowly-moving parachute still wouldn't be hot enough.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    @Jamie Kitson

    I believe the measurement you are looking for is 4.523 kiloJubs (at sea level)

  10. Stuart Van Onselen

    @Stuart Halliday

    Nice first-name, BTW :-)

    Never accuse the US armed forces of being frugal. They seem to love spending 10 to 100 times what Joe Blow would spend on the exact same item. And they delight in blowing up $10K enemy installations with $100K smart-bombs.

    So the cost of the GPS and guide-wires won't be missed.

    More seriously, that palette might be carrying many $100K worth of arms and ammo. Or it could be carrying just $2k worth of MREs that could nonetheless mean the difference between holding or losing a position (and the men on it).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What happens when the lizard army gets these?

    Deliveries of killer refrigerators and flaming taxis? A serious cause for concern.

  12. Neil Stansbury
    Thumb Down


    What you want him back?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about laser guidance?

    Laser guidance would work at night (even better at night) and would be easy to determine if it's on target--if you see the beam, you're on target. And counterinsurgents would be interested in destroying cargo that would help their enemies--cutting off supply chains, after all.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Essential accessory

    Trouserfly ?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Build a manufacturing plant in Scotland and

    have a McFly !!!!

    I'd be happy to shove it/them out the back of a plane at 22000 feet !!!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    19 tonnes?

    I'd hate to be below one of those when it luffs.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A palette carries paint

    PALLET, you idiots!

  18. Stewart Haywood
    Paris Hilton

    Gliding Bomb

    19 tonnes of bang would make a very large gliding bomb.

    I assume that it wouldn't take too much to arrange for this to glide over an airfield at night whilst dispensing 19 tonnes of bomblets and anti-personel mines. I think that it makes a much nicer weapon than it does a grocery delivery system.

    Paris 'cause she likes big weapons too.

  19. Ben

    @ AC

    Perhaps they're giving the US marines some art therapy? About time too, really - they always seem so angry. Must be the stupid haircuts they're forced to wear...

  20. Roger Campbell
    Black Helicopters

    Do we need this?

    We always seem to have money for all kinds of war toys, but never seem to have much for helping those in need whose 'freedoms' we are always seem to be fighting for in some unlivable third world country.

    Anyone see a real need for something like this in a peaceful environment?

    I'm having trouble coming up with anything that we don't already have that can do the job better.

    The Helicopter for well... You know, as hint for something that would work better in my fantasy dream world where there is no need for war because we actually talk to each other and negotiate stuff.

  21. nicolas
    Paris Hilton


    what about SpanishFly ?

  22. Jon Minhinnick

    Back to the future

    It's Marty McFly thank you.

    Hello.... McFly.... Are you in there?!?



  23. Rich

    Untrained paratroopers

    19tonnes = 100+ squaddies with gear.

    You could load them all onto a pallet and push them out. No need for parachute training either.

  24. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: What about laser guidance?

    Laser guidance is not some magical cure-all, you still need to detect the target and then track it whilst you aim the laser which guides whatever missile you are firing. Laser guidance is itself usually optically guided - the operator has to see the target and then line up the laser to illuminate it, and at night they usually use a thermal or infra-red scope to do the laser aiming. As the parawing is thermally-neutral (see above), that means you will instead need a large image intensifier scope to amplify latent light (moonlight) to allow you to see into the dark sky. Most of the infantry scopes available even to advanced forces don't have the range to pick out a parawing at several thousand metres, they are usually designed to pick out a tank at several hundred metres, and anything less than several thousand metres is likely to put you well within striking range of any US perimiter guards. You would need something like the image intensifiers used with tank sights, which can see several thousand metres but are heavy, bulky, and require external power, to get the kind of acquisition range required, which means you probably need a vehicle to move it and a large hide/bunker to conceal it - the chances of such surviving long near a major US presence is in the snowball-in-Hell range. And even if you did have a large image intensifier and did manage to avoid detection long enough to launch and guide a missile, it would still be vulnerable to decoys.

  25. Charlie

    RE: Yeeeesss...


    By Alex Posted Friday 26th September 2008 11:35 GMT


    "If transport planes descend below 10,000 feet they become vulnerable to shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles"

    So instead, the payloads will become easy pickings....


    Just what I was thinking. Huge payloads of supplies necessary to support our troops gets destroyed, possibly leaving our troops helpless and hungry.

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