This intelligent parachute system can bail out clumsy drone pilots

Drone technology has advanced markedly in the last few years, with improved stability and handling making them easier than ever to fly.

But whether through mechanical malfunction or sheer pilot incompetence, there will always be occasions when we’re left watching helplessly as our crippled quadcopter plummets from the sky as if it was never meant to be up there in the first place.

One solution is to stick a parachute on the drone that automatically activates when it detects problems. Such a system would not only save the drone from breaking into multiple pieces when it hits terra firma, but also reduce the risk of injury if the machine lands on someone’s head on the way down.

Among a growing number of such offerings is one from Austria-based Drone Rescue, which has been working on incorporating parachutes into drones for a while now. This week it’s planning to carry out its first public demonstration of its latest system at the tech-focused Intergeo event in Frankfurt, Germany, New Atlas reports.

Drone Rescue has created two parachute modules, the DRS-5 and DRS-10, that can be attached to a range of remotely controlled copters. The DRS-5 is effective for drones weighing up to 18 pounds (8 kg), while the DRS-10 is for drones weighing between 11 and 44 pounds (5 and 20 kg). The team has also created the DRS-M600, which is essentially the DRS-10 designed especially for DJI’s Matrice 600 drone, a machine popular with professional aerial photographers and independent filmmakers.

The automatic parachute system comprises a carbon container for the parachute, together with sensors that tell the system when things are going awry in the sky. The moment the drone begins to drop rapidly, the parachute automatically deploys to decrease the speed of the machine’s descent. An important part of the system ensures that the drone’s motors automatically cut out at the same time as the parachute deploys to eliminate the risk of the propellers slicing through the lines or causing injury to individuals on the ground.

Drone Rescue CEO and co-founder Andreas Ploier says in a release that its system “has the advantage that it manages completely without explosive, pyrotechnical solutions.” This means the parachute can simply be quickly repackaged for reuse, and also results in a system that’s “considerably lighter, and functions even in a worst-case scenario.”

A neat but important touch is the inclusion of a data recorder that allows for more detailed analysis of a drone failure.

While regulators are still wary about letting commercial drones fly out of the line of sight, as well as over populated areas, a system like the one created by Drone Rescue — together with a drone traffic control system — could pave the way for broader use of drones by businesses.

When you see how hard this broadcaster’s hefty camera drone came down at a skiing event a few years ago, narrowly missing one of the skiers, it’s easy to understand how effective a parachute-equipped drone could be when things go wrong in the sky.

Drone Rescue plans to launch its parachute system for drone owners before the end of 2018.

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