Until quite recently, it was mainly civilian drone operators that sought effective solutions for bringing drones safely to the ground in the event of an emergency. Gradually, however – according to intelligent parachute systems developer Drone Rescue Systems in Graz, Austria – they are becoming attractive to military and governmental users in the security sector.
"The advantages of the systems, aside from their obvious basic properties, are the numerous interfaces and integration possibilities. This means that we can currently offer solutions for almost all drones with a MTOW between 2-25kg. Furthermore, we have developed model-specific parachute systems for a number of DJI models. These include the DJI M300, DJI M600 and DJI M210," explains Andreas Ploier, the company’s Managing Partner. The first standard system was launched for the DJI M600 in 2018, and customized systems have been available since 2016. "We offer numerous integration and interface options, so that our parachute systems can be easily adapted and integrated to almost all types of drones," Ploier added.
The majority of drones currently in use support professional photography, aerial reconnaissance and surveillance. A wide variety of modern – and in many cases expensive – payloads can be integrated, making their safety and security in emergency situations important – particularly when the drone may be operating in close proximity to crowds. In military applications, however, the focus is on securing the payload in the event of an accident. "It is precisely through the controlled landing of drones that they can be recovered quickly," declares Ploier.
Drone Rescue Systems is involved in multiple research projects, for example, with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on innovative projects such as the FALCon programme, which focuses on cost-efficient, environmentally-friendly satellite transport – involving the return of rocket stages after launch.
All parachute rescue systems are similarly designed. In addition to the carbon cage in which the parachute is stored, the rescue systems consist of intelligent electronics that monitor the flight condition, independent of flight control. Great care has been taken not to reduce the payload capacity, endurance or range of the drone by integrating a parachute system. An ingenious algorithm merges sensor data, thus implementing automatic crash detection. In an emergency, the pilot no longer has to react and press a release button, as this is often not an option – for example, if the datalink fails. In addition, the algorithm reacts faster than the pilot: effectively, the system releases the parachute itself. All this is achieved in a lightweight package: the complete DRS-M600 solutions weighs just 420g.
"We want to ensure that even in an emergency beyond visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) the drone can be safely intercepted. With our parachute system, thanks to its completely proprietary electronics, which are independent of the flight controller, this is always possible. In addition, our system has the advantage of operating completely without explosive [or] pyrotechnical components. The parachute itself is ejected from the basket in case of an emergency by a robust elastic system. As a result, we have a system that is much lighter and works even in worst-case scenarios," Ploier points out.