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This drone parachute automatically deploys itself if it detects a stall

smartchutes drone parachute kickstarter 150514 0001
Image used with permission by copyright holder
The first time I ever flew a drone, I crashed it — and it wasn’t a small tumble either. I was helping my colleague Nick Jaynes shoot some aerial video for a Ferrari review, and the first scene we had planned was a badass rising shot captured from the edge of a bridge. When we had everything in place and Nick gave me the signal to start shooting, I confidently pressed the record button on my controller.

…But it wasn’t actually the record button. Turns out I had the controls mixed up in my head, and instead I pressed the kill switch while the drone was in midair. Oops! After that little mistake, I had the pleasure of watching the $1,500 camera drone plummet over 100 feet straight down — off the edge of a goddamn bridge, mind you — and slam into a rocky hillside at terminal velocity. We eventually managed to retrieve the drone and do some field repairs to get it working again, but ever since then, I’ve admittedly felt a bit of anxiety whenever I send a drone up into the air.

If you’ve ever crashed a drone yourself, you probably know the feeling — but luckily there’s a new project on Kickstarter that might help alleviate some of the uneasiness that comes with flying. SmartChutes, as it’s called, is a clever new parachute attachment designed specifically for small multi-rotor aircraft. Clip it onto your drone, and it’ll prevent catastrophic crashes.

The system is pretty straightforward. Under the hood, SmartChutes is equipped with a set of gyroscopes and accelerometers. Whenever these sensors detect that the drone is falling (or has gone 90 degrees past horizontal) they automatically deploy the spring-loaded parachute, which slows down the drone’s descent, and (hopefully) reduces the damage it experiences when it hits the ground.

SmartChutes only exists in prototype form at this point, but if creator Michael Pick can raise $25K before the end of May, he’ll be able to bring it to production. Back the project now and you can get your hands on a SmartChutes system for about $130. If all goes well, Pick hopes to begin shipping to backers as early as October.

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Drew Prindle
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