I have been working on a functional prototype of an automatic safety system for small rotary and fixed wing UAV/UAS platforms. The goal of the project and the development of the device is to allow automatic detection of flight system power loss, lift, and subsequent activation of an integrated mechanism intended to provide safe descent of the aerial platform, providing safety for observers, ground and air objects,vehicle and vehicle payloads.
Over the next few weeks - I plan to upload some imagery and video of the solution, ultimately with a view to putting together a KickStarter project towards the end of this year (which is only a few weeks away). The solution is standalone and in theory should attach to various flavors and sizes of platform, (packaging and chute size are variable) both for commercial and non-commercial use. I'm currently using my 3DR Quad as the test platform.
The intent by doing a kick-starter would be to get funding and support to 'productionalize' the solution and bring to market (at least in a limited form).
There are multiple goals, primarily safety, but also protection of the UAV investment ($), the payload (e.g.cameras, sensors) but also including data. I imagine that beyond regulations, there needs to be a solid strategy and solution regarding safety before UAV/UAS can be used on a daily basis in built up or urban environments.
At the moment, I'm looking for feedback on whether there is any interest if I were to go the KickStarter route, and also if anyone has any comments. I have a lot more detail of course available to share if appropriate.
I'd love to hear more about this. Is it a parachute system? Is it easily reloadable? What is your target weight?
Yes - it would be based around a parachute system, with the ability for different sized chutes, based on an increasingly large chute holder. I may use an off the shelf chute and deployment system, the key part of the system is the ability to detect vehicle issues (that require deployment) and also to disable vehicle power so rotors etc aren't spinning and interfere with chute and/or people! The initial system is for the 3DR quadcopter, and variants. However I plan to look at larger sizes for more commercial focused platforms. It is modular in approach.
Sounds like a great idea if you have a design in the works. I've heard of commercial chute systems for mutlirotors but they're all externally triggered and susceptible to spinning props. If you can come up with a smarter solution I'm sure people would get involved.
Not sure if you're aware of this, but this thread was just mentioned on the NPR blog:
I'm also interested in this system, and would be interested in a kickstarter. Honestly, when I came to this hobby, and saw people flying thousands of dollars of equipment hundreds of feet in the air, I just assumed they had an emergency parachute. The risk/reward of not having one just seems much too high - carrying a few more ounces versus having no protection for structural failure, software failure, impacts, battery failure, electrical failure and on and on. With the parachute system, you could probably even shave off the same weight from your structure, since it may not need to survive as awful crashes.
For example, if your parachute is designed for a relatively standard 4.4m/s terminal velocity, the hardest crash your UA will have to withstand is the same as being dropped from 3 feet without a parachute. Reduce the terminal velocity further and you can reduce the impact energy even more (though it's a slower descent with a larger area it could fall to). If you don't have to worry about those 400 foot falls as much, how would you adjust your UA's structure?
It's a pretty cool design challenge too. In terms of features, I'd really like to see some reliability data. Maybe do a few hundred releases and use some statistics to determine the failure rate, the minimum altitude needed to fully deploy 99% of the time, average time to reload, etc. I'd like uC control, so that we can trigger it remotely for testing or emergency and so it can be triggered automatically if the controller thinks it needs to. I'm imagining a active high pin, and the chute deploys when pulled low. That way, if the power drops out, the chute deploys.
Obviously people here like low weight and low volume, and you definitely need a range of parachutes and an easy way to size them. It'd also be nice if you could connect it to the ESCs and turn them off or brake them before deployment. Maybe a status pin too, so you can give feedback to the controller, and it doesn't try to fight the parachute while it's falling.