Inside Unmanned Systems

JUN-JUL 2019

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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67 June/July 2019  www.insideunmannedsystems.com  unmanned systems inside DRONE PARACHUTES Standards and Satety ly evolved. We feel our long experi- ence with parachutes now serves us well w ith drone parachutes, and a large section of our business is now the drone market." Before Erickson founded Indemnis, "I was working in the television industry helping over- see the integration and use of drones into our compa- nies' production workf low. We were using drones on a daily basis and they began to fail and fall out of the sky. Naturally I thought, 'Let's put a parachute on the drone.' I researched and tested the parachute systems available and was never able to get one to work. "One day we had a drone failure and I went home in frustration," Erickson recalled. "I kept racking my brain on how to make a parachute work. While watching a movie that night, I had an aha moment where I real- ized a rigid inf latable parachute could work because it wouldn't be able to entangle or blow back into the air- craft. Myself and five others came together and that was the start of Indemnis." All in all, he felt "being drone operators first allowed us to understand the problem before engineering the solution." Rineer, who started off in the industry building cus- tom drones, spent a lot of time developing drone para- chute systems through trial and error. "We had a cus- tomer who ignored his f light time and battery alarms and came back to us and expected us to fix it for free, so at that point on we started designing parachutes to protect the craft," he recalled. "We spent 80-hour weeks learning everything that we were going to use. I even re- member Christmas Eve, I snuck out from a family party to put together our new desktop CNC [computer numeri- cal control] router table. "We failed a lot of times," Rineer added. "Crashing drones was not cheap, especially in 2016, when we devel- oped our new automatic deployment system, the Mayday Board. But all the failures have helped us develop the only commercially available auto-deployment system for drones." For Indemnis, designing their Nexus system was diff icult because of the extremely strong polymer f i- bers it uses. "Dyneema is 15 times stronger than steel— it is the strongest f iber in the world," Erickson said. "Because of this technology, we are able to launch the parachute in 30 milliseconds at 90 miles per hour, which is not possible by other deployment methods." But in order to weld this composite material in a way that did not compromise its strength, "the learning cur ve was steep, in that there were cer tain mate- rial technological breakthroughs that were needed to enable a tangible solution. The saying in the tech world that 'hardware is hard' is very, very true for the Indemnis Nexus." For Fruity Chutes, "the parachutes were the least of our issues, because of our experience," Engelgau said. "Mostly our challenges came from the launchers. Testing different multi-rotors is challenging as well. Crashing a bunch of expensive airframes is not something you want to do—you want to move cautiously and carefully." IMPLEMENTING THE NEW STANDARD To help drone companies know if a parachute might work for their machines, ASTM International (originally the American Society for Testing and Materials) released F3322, a new standard for sUAS parachutes. "The standard is vitally important to expanding the industr y safely and ensuring that one bad accident does not ruin the reputation for all commercial drone operators," said Erickson, who was the technical lead on the committee that helped develop the standard. "The consequence of the parachute standard is that it is forcing companies to meet the benchmark, which takes time and resources, but we choose to view this as an opportunity to prove safe operation can happen properly." The hope is that parachute systems that meet the standard will help drone operators get approval from a civil aviation authority to f ly drones over people—a barrier ParaZero just broke through. "One can imag- ine meeting the standard could bring in customers from a whole different market space where they can f ly over people, or to get insurance to f ly missions that are more risky than insurance companies wanted to risk before," said Andy Thurling, chief technology of- ficer of New York's NUAIR (Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research) Alliance. (See page 63 for an interview with Thurling.) INDEMNIS PARACHUTE RECOVERY SYSTEM A DJI Inspire 2 drone with an Indemnis parachute system. The system is designed to meet and exceed expected FAA standards for fl ights over people. DEFENSE COMMERCIAL NEXUS

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