France has developed a device that helps paratroopers execute safer landings — particularly when carrying another soldier, lots of military gear, at night, or in a hostile landing area — at altitudes up to 28,000 feet (8,534 meters).
A soldier in the 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment came up with a system that beeps at increasing intervals as paratroopers approach the ground.
With the help of the country’s Defense Innovation Agency (AID) and electronics design office Bordelaise Electronique, the concept has been adapted and received funding of around $51,000.
Called the “DAPCO” (Dispositif d’Aide au Poser pour Chuteur Opérationnel), the device prototype looks like a small box.
The technology reportedly utilizes light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology, emitting a pulsed laser. The time it takes for the light to hit the ground and return to its source indicates the distance to the ground. Users receive a sound signal from the device beginning at around 25 feet (7.6 meters).
Bordelaise Electronique director Nicolas Tauzin explained that the company initially considered two different technologies (radar and LIDAR) integrated into the DAPCO. He said that enemies could easily detect the radar, so the developer chose LIDAR because it is “much more discreet” and meets the device’s precision, weight, and size criteria.
Developers are also ensuring the technology can be calibrated by soldiers before jumps, accounting for their weight.
The system is connected to the paratrooper’s radio, so only he can hear the continuous beeps through earphones.
“We land at speeds of between 50 to 40 feet a second,” the soldier who had the DAPCO idea told Popular Science. “Parachuting is not an end in itself. It’s simply a means to get us to the mission zone so it’s important that everyone is in good shape when we hit the ground.”
The French military has already tested the device in 70 experimental jumps. Having received authorization for operational use by the Special Forces, developers are preparing the DAPCO for delivery.