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Drone Anti-Crash Systems – Where The Safety Is A Number One Priority




Let’s face it: Even multi-million dollar military drones can fail. It’s not because of the technology, and it’s not because of the lack of skill. Sometimes a large set of factors line up in a way that it can only be explained by Murphy’s Law. There are too many variables to ensure that a drone will never crash. Air itself isn’t a flat road on which vehicles can travel effortlessly. As such, drone anti-crash systems are desperately needed!

Some experimental drone makers have come up with clever “crash-proof” designs. A good example of this is the GimBall, a drone that won the first prize in 2015’s Drones for Good competition. The configuration made it suitable to fly in indoors and conduct inspections (always monetize!), but from a performance perspective, it was far behind off-the-shelf consumer drones. For example, its camera would always be capturing part of the ball structure.

The Gimball Drone

The Gimball Drone

Small commercial drones tried to avoid crash damage by adding external protection. The Parrot Spider mini drone and its countless copies had a very good compromise:

The Parrot Spider

The Parrot Spider

But unless you’re only planning to fly 2 meters above the ground (even that is enough to make some expensive drones on the market unusable after a crash), those are not solutions that are going to save a drone from being damaged beyond repair in the event of a serious accident.

Drone Anti-Crash Systems

When seeking to protect professional UAV systems, solutions can be found in well-established industries: the aeronautical and automotive industries.

  • Drone Parachutes: These are the most-used solutions for professional drone companies hoping to save part of their expensive equipment in the case of a fatal system failure. Sounds obvious? Well, in many ready-to-sell drones it is hard to find a space to locate and fix a parachute launcher. It does usually sacrifice some payload weight and has to be carefully placed close to the center of gravity in order to not affect the overall performance. Take a look at companies like Parazero or Skycat if you feel like avoiding heart attacks.
Fixed wing drone

Fixed wing drone with parachute deployed

  • Drone Airbags: The fun part is that this technology was patented by Disney. It’s quite hard to find any working example of this, although it would be a really fun test. It might not be the best solution to use alone since its efficiency depends on the altitude, but it’s worth considering. At least NASA thought so…
Disney Patent for UAV

Disney Patent for UAV Airbag (via PatentYogi)

New Designs To Avoid Crashes

Last month, the German company Meteomatics received a US patent for a new drone anti-crash system design.

Meteomatic's patented anti-crash system design

Meteomatic’s patented anti-crash system design

At a glance we can say this design has the following advantages and disadvantages:

  • Advantages: Its design comes from nature. There is nothing more advanced designs worked out over millions of years by natural selection. Maple tree seed pods have a shape that allows them to slowly twirl to the ground while the wind carries them away. This design has been also applied to helicopters. When the engine stops midair, the airspeed of the descension makes the blades spin at a rate that allows the pilot to control the vehicle (a.k.a. Autorotation).
  • Disadvantages: The chance of your drone falling from the sky vs. the reduced aerodynamic performance on every single flight is worth considering. Has anyone thought that with the slightest crosswind will start it spinning? Go fly on a windy day and your drone anti-crash drone will look like a washing machine out of control.

There are many ways to avoid major damage if your drone falls from the sky, but the best one is prevention. Make sure you go through a solid safety checklist before every flight and stick to manufacturer recommendations. And if your drone ends up falling? Well… hope it is still in one piece and make sure to check the flight logs!


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