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This Automatic Parachute Keeps Your Drone From Crashing And Burning

If your drone can fly without a pilot, it should be able to protect itself without a pilot.

You’ve just dropped several hundred on a shiny, brand new drone. But lots of things can go wrong with your flight. Batteries can fail. Motors can malfunction. A strong wind can blow your drone out of control. Most likely, you’re also not that good at flying it. The end result is a wasteful amount of drones and equipment being destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

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Current fail-safes for drones tend to rely on the operator hitting the equivalent of a panic button. But doing that depends on a lot of factors like a user’s ability to recognize an in-flight situation from the ground and maintaining line-of-sight with the drone 100% of the time. Not to mention that any remote-controlled emergency button would require won’t work in the event of total power failure.

Michael Pick, a drone enthusiast and computer scientist, is creating SmartChutes to remove human error from the failsafe equation. A true failsafe, he says, should be automated.


“When I bought my first camera-equipped drone, I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy about sending so much expensive equipment up into the air without any safeguards in the event of an accident,” says Pick.

Pick searched online for something that met his needs. Finding none, he did what any good hacker does: he made his own. The SmartChute, which Pick is currently crowdfunding, uses an integrated gyroscope and accelerometer that can determine when the drone is free-falling or has flipped more than 90 degrees.

When an emergency is detected, the SmartChute deploys a 36-inch parachute so that the drone can safely land. Because it uses its own internal battery, it will still function even under power failure for the drone. The SmartChute is designed for quadcopter model drones, not fixed-wing. As an aerial photographer himself, Pick made sure that the mounting for the SmartChute would not interfere with camera mounts.

SmartChutes’ Kickstarter campaign ends this week.

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