ESRL Global Systems Division

Technology Transfer Award for ESRL's Global Systems Division

We are pleased to announce that John A. McGinley, John R. Smart, Linda S. Wharton, and Daniel L. Birkenheuer of ESRL's Global Systems Division (GSD) have been selected as recipients of NOAA's Technology Transfer Award "In recognition of the LAPS technology transfer to support development and implementation of the Precision Airdrop System that improves airdrop activities worldwide." The awards will be presented at a ceremony on October 22nd in Silver Spring, Maryland. Congratulations to each winner for this outstanding achievement.

This award honors the transfer of the GSD-developed Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS) wind assimilation scheme to a private-sector organization, namely Planning Systems Inc. (PSI) of Reston, VA. GSD's efforts in this technology transfer included system design, development, integration, testing, and implementation within the PSI-owned Precision Airdrop System (PADS) environment. The team had to modify existing data acquisition, analysis, and forecasting software of a static, ground-based system to operate in a real-time environment, with Ultra High Frequency radio data links to acquire dropsonde data, and current model forecast downloads. This was achieved via a high-speed Internet connection with the weather center. The system had to be configured to run on a laptop computer during airdrop missions on aircraft operating from 18,000 to 25,000 ft.

In recent years, problems associated with aerial resupply resulted in the initiation in 1998 of a Department of Defense program for the development of the capability to airdrop ballistic parachute payloads accurately and safely from high altitude. The program was dubbed PADS. Wind errors (forecast versus actual) are the largest contributors to the total error budget of a ballistic airdrop system, especially in mountainous terrain. The US Army and civilian contractor (PSI) sought out help from the NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratory (now Earth System Research Laboratory/Global Systems Division—ESRL/GSD) and asked GSD to join the laboratory-industry-US government team. The development team focused on reducing the wind error budget through the real-time measurement of winds over and near a planned drop zone using mature technologies.

This effort produced a valuable product that allows customers to better support logistical delivery to military and civilian ground units. It is PSI's collaboration with NOAA that made the PADS system robust and marketable to commercial interests and foreign nations for a variety of airborne operations (free fall, humanitarian resupply, precision resupply, fire fighting support, etc.)

Contact information
Name: Ann M Reiser
Tel: 303-497-6634