DASH Systems Completes "Big Dipper" Alaska Expedition Trip to Study Higher-Precision AirDrops

July 26, 2021

DASH Systems, a Los Angeles-based technology company developing hardware and software to enable precision airdrop deliveries, today completed a test and evaluation partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to conduct airdrops to remote government facilities, towns and oil, and gas operators in Alaska. The "Big Dipper" expedition trip marked the first time a private company completed precision airdrops into remote Alaskan facilities.

DASH System's technology and hardware were designed to advance and enable precision airdrop deliveries in rural, remote, and difficult-to-reach locations without the need for landing. Alaska's poor infrastructure and extreme weather make routine delivery nearly impossible to remote communities and government facilities. 82 percent of communities and towns in Alaska do not have access to all-weather roads forcing food and packages to be flown into small local airfields.

"We tend to think of logistics as solved in large cities, but there are still hundreds of rural and remote locations that do not have access to large hubs for distribution of packages or materials," said Joel Ifill Founder and CEO at DASH Systems. "In Alaska, the large majority of communities still don't have access to the road network and instead have to rely on air cargo to get supplies in. The Bethel area alone has over 50 'fly-in' only communities. All it takes is bad weather, a damaged gravel runway or the lack of a road between the airport and end location to stop the delivery. We created DASH to rethink logistics and shipping for communities like these by bridging the sky and the ground."

Instead of having to land at an airport and drive cargo to its destination, DASH autonomously releases and lands packages from commercial airplanes to helipad-size drop areas. Working with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Office of Naval Research, DASH will study airdrops to select government facilities, towns and oil and gas operators as it expands its footprint across the United States. With hundreds of fly-in only communities, Alaska represents the perfect testbed of rugged and difficult terrain, tricky landings and customers who have unmet needs for urgent deliveries. Typical deliveries include time-sensitive spare parts, medical supplies and basic food and household staples.

"The value of DASH's approach to cargo delivery is easily understood by Alaskans who are all too familiar with the high costs and logistical challenges of rural deliveries," said Isaac Vanderburg, CEO of Launch Alaska. "Over the past year, the DASH team has built several invaluable relationships in Alaska, and the state as a whole is cheering them on."

"My company ships products throughout rural Alaska, and we face huge logistical challenges getting products to our customers timely, and at a reasonable cost," said Wayne Kleven, CEO of Alaskan Sales. "DASH Systems is not just talking about solving these challenges, but actually doing something about it by demonstrating their innovative approach to package delivery during their Big Dipper expedition."

The Big Dipper expedition encompassed over 7,000 miles of Alaskan terrain and demonstration deliveries were made to multiple remote facilities including HAARP, Poker Flat Research Center, The Village of Minto and Tullik Lake. In each location, multiple GRFN precision airdrop pods capable of holding 15 pounds of cargo were launched from DASH Systems' Cessna 208 into the specified landing zone.

"We are excited to partner with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship and Office of Naval Research. Nothing is more difficult, or important than delivering goods to front-line soldiers or remote government facilities that often don't get to choose if they have proximity to existing logistics infrastructure," continued Ifill. "Alaska is just one example of too many locations worldwide that make it nearly impossible to make deliveries and this is an important first step in proving what precision airdrops can do. We are flying over 7,000 miles to multiple delivery locations in remote Alaska and we're proud to be expanding our footprint."

DASH's system is inspired by defense technology and is a modern update to a longstanding and legal practice of air-drops repurposed for commercial and humanitarian use. Using an existing commercial airplane, DASH's flight management software maps the delivery route and instructs the pilot where and how to fly, simplifying and streamlining the process. When the aircraft reaches the correct spot, DASH's aircraft cargo handling system automatically releases the smart-cargo pods which land safely and softly at the desired location. This concept falls within existing FAA regulations and has undergone proof of concept tests in disaster relief and extensive use in the defense industry.