Drone parachute safety system passes crucial flight tests

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Israel-based drone company Flytrex has successfully tested the parachute for its package delivery drone at a testing site in New York.

The tests were managed by the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) at  Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York. The tests validated the Flytrex drone parachute system as compliant with industry standards.

The FAA prohibits most drones from being flown directly over people. However, professional drone operators can apply for a waiver from that restriction, if they can show they have robust safety mitigations in place, including having a validated parachute.

The Drone Rescue System’s (DRS) M600 parachute tested for Flytrex by NUAIR is an autonomous parachute system that use elastic bands instead of pyrotechnics, enabling them to weigh less and be used on drones between 3 and 16kg (6-36 lbs) in weight.

The M600 is designed to reduce the risk of harming people on the ground by bringing down equipment safely in the event of a drone malfunction. Its mechanism deploys a parachute within milliseconds and only takes a few minutes to re-pack the system and relaunch the drone.

The M600 is equipped with a traceable black box which stores flight data so in the event of a malfunction, the data can be recovered and analyzed to determine why the parachute was deployed.

The parachute was tested on a DJI Matrice 600 Pro. Andreas Ploier, CEO of DRS said, “The testing by NUAIR, with their strong record, is an important milestone for our companies and the industry in general, making DRS the first company that passed the ASTM certification for the DJI Matrice 600 drone.”

The testing program consisted of 45 functionality tests across five different failure scenarios. The tests were successful, proving that the DRS-M600 complies with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) international standard specification for small UAS parachutes, opening the door for Flytrex to get a waiver to operate its drone over people.

The ASTM standard was developed by the FAA and other industry stakeholders in late 2018 after more than a year of work.

Yariv Bash, CEO and co-founder of Flytrex said, “When it comes to commercial drone operations, safety has to be a main priority. We chose to work with Drone Rescue Systems not only because they are the experts when it comes to keeping drones safely above our heads, but also because we share the same vision of making commercial drones a viable option by upholding the highest safety standards.

“Our confidence in these tests is bolstered by NUAIR’s strong track record, having managed the testing of the world’s first certified parachute recovery system. NUAIR is at the forefront of safety regulation, and we’re pleased to be testing with an experienced and capable partner.”

NUAIR is an industry and academic partnership running programs to provide the data and standards testing needed to help start commercial drone-delivery operations.

Tony Basile, chief operations officer at NUAIR said, “Such tests and partnerships support our mission to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace. We look forward to continuing to validate industry leading technology, supporting the ever-growing commercial UAS industry.”

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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