23 May 2015
The worst part of having a drone is losing it. Pilots will go to great lengths to make sure their drones stay clear of harm, whether it’s diving into a canal to save it from drowning or turning a mishap on national television into a learning experience and warning for others. Michael Pick, creator of SmartChutes, notes in his campaign video that the first time he flew a quadcopter, he felt uneasy about sending so much expensive equipment into the air. So he came up with an emergency system for drones: a 36-inch parachute in a 4.25-inch long by 1.5-inch diameter canister and a sensor that weigh 4 ounces combined. The system can attach to quadcopters that are up to four pounds. The sensor takes 15 seconds to prime, and operates off its own battery. An accelerometer and a gyroscope can detect flips, freefalls, or a tilt over 90 degrees. When these potentially disastrous maneuvers are detected, the sensor signals the canister to release the parachute. The SmartChute system will operate even under total power loss of the multicopter.
In conventional solutions, where a user must manually press a button or flip a switch to deploy a parachute, the deployment of a parachute is entirely dependent on the user's ability of recognizing an emergency and deploying the parachute in time. If the user is not fast enough to visually detect an inflight emergency, and subsequently press the correct button on the transmitter to deploy a parachute, the multicopter will most likely be damaged. In the event of total power failure of the multicopter, you are helpless. Most conventional parachute recovery systems run off the multicopter's battery. In such a scenario, all you can do is watch helplessly as your multicopter comes crashing down to earth.
This is where SmartChutes comes in. The SmartChutes flight sensor can detect an inflight emergency almost immediately, and subsequently deploy a parachute in a relatively small amount of time, thereby greatly improving the chances of a successful recovery at low altitude where every second is precious. This system also works in the event of total battery failure of the multicopter.