IITA, reservists test military cargo tracking system
By Capt. Jody L. Ritchie, 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 10, 2009
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Air Force Academy's Institute for Information Technology Applications and the 302nd Airlift Wing here took part in a prototype air drop Sept. 24 over the Airburst range at Fort Carson.
The proof-of-concept drop assisted an IITA research project called the Airdrop Enhanced Logistics Visibility System, or AELVIS, which aims to provide servicemembers in deployed environments the ability to track cargo locations and inventories similarly to tracking a FedEx or UPS shipment.
AELVIS combines existing Blue Force Tracker capabilities with automated information and geospatial technologies, providing the exact location of an air-dropped container delivery system and its inventory within minutes of the drop. The technology can also be applied to air drops of heavy equipment such as vehicles.
During the September drop, a recovery team approximately 1,000 yards from the drop zone identified the GPS coordinates of two separate containers dropped during a Joint Precision Airdrop System training mission and identified the contents of each container immediately after the loads landed.
A simulated operations center at the Academy, situated 39 miles north of the drop zone, observed the drop and received CDS information at the same time as the recovery team. Personnel at the operations center determined the drop's effectiveness using a scoring application developed by IITA and contractors.
"FedEx determined a long time ago that information about a package can be more important than the package itself," said Lt. Col. Patrick Ryan, project officer for AELVIS and a C-130 navigator with the 302nd. "We believe in this philosophy, and we're determined to provide this capability to warfighters, even if it's one CDS at a time."
The project addresses the "last tactical mile" in airdrop operations, providing instantaneous airdrop information to whomever needs it, Colonel Ryan said.
"For example, ground commanders ... can prioritize the recovery of (containers) after an airdrop using our integrated inventory data viewer with the click of a mouse." At the same time, operations and support personnel can score the drop's effectiveness in reference to the point of landing.
Lt. Col. Freddie Rodriguez, director of reserve research for IITA, said he makes a point to incorporate reservists, including those from the 302nd, who have extensive operational experience and who can provide their real-world experience and input into the concept of real-time cargo tracking.
"This drop demonstrates the value of bringing the warfighter to the research," Colonel Rodriguez said. "Tapping into the deployed and corporate experience of reservists and the research talent of more than 4,000 cadets and faculty gives us the opportunity to make a difference in the operational Air Force."