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archived projects

older projects of interest

Cargo drop from an Air Force C-130 using captured motion data

I include this old animation, not because it represents some great 3D modeling or animation but because it has some other, hidden significance. In early 2000, as I had just started DAS and was looking for any opportunity to do any kind of 3D animation, I was contacted by a small company in Colorado Springs working on a project for the Air Force. They had proposed a method for actually guiding and controlling cargo which had been dropped from an aircraft using a parachute. This is still a primary method of distributing supplies by the armed forces but many of these pallettes end up in the wrong place as you can imagine, subject to the whims of the winds and weather. During several of their test drops for this new system, 6 DOF position and rotation data was recorded from the cargo palette. They wanted to import this data onto a 3D model of the cargo drop, reproducing it in detail to examine the results and how their system was working during the controlled drop. In fact they wanted to have this happen in real-time as the cargo was being dropped. Real-time re-creation was not possible with the tools of the day that I knew of but I did offer them an opportunity to import the data into a scene created in 3ds Max for better visualization. Unfortunately, at that time, I had almost no scripting knowledge and had to learn on the job how to do something I had promised a client. I was eventually able to get the data from an excel spreadsheet onto the box model of the cargo via Maxscript. Not sure we ever got the precise translation of the data. Rotation is a bitch. The motion of the cargo you are seeing in this animation is from the data, though maybe not entirely true to the actual drop from which the data was acquired. That data was from an actual cargo drop from a C-130 over the Yuma AZ test range. I have actual video of the drop but I'm not a liberty to disclose it nor the name of the company or individuals involved. Of course I hyped the scene up a bit with the Hercules model from the Infographic model library I had recently purchased. It looked good at the time but is woefully outdated now. I recently re-rendered the scene in HD with an updated sky as well as correcting a few errors on the Hercules mesh. Otherwise, it's the same scene I created for them back in 2000. The parachute animation is entirely of my own creation, not related to the real world data. I have no idea how their contract with the military ended, though they were moving on to some other clever ideas for the Air Force near the end of our project together.

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