NASA’s Safe2Ditch To Help Drones Make Safe Emergency Landings

Scientists at NASA are not just exploring the outer space, but also bringing valuable space technologies to Earth. With the growing popularity of drones among e-commerce players and other businesses, a major worry is the possibility of malfunctioning. What if one or more components of a drone fail mid-air? It might go into a free fall and end up injuring someone on the ground.

NASA bringing space technology to Earth

Companies such as Amazon.com recognize the possibility of the mid-air failure. Earlier this year, Amazon patented the technology that will allow the onboard package to “forcefully” propel from the malfunctioning drone and land with the help of tools such as a parachute. Other suggestions involve enabling the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to fly with one or more failed motors.

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NASA seems to be way ahead of others in this area. The US space agency’s Langley Research Center has developed a technology called Safe2Ditch that helps drones select the best and nearest emergency landing site in the event of a malfunction and land. Sean Sullivan of NASA Langley Research Center explained to ValueWalk how it works.

How does Safe2Ditch work?

The system continuously monitors all parts of the UAV based on a specific set of parameters. It can autonomously detect if a component failure is imminent, and then determine how much longer the UAV can remain in the air. It then reconstitutes the different control servers on the drone to manage the landing. If needed, the system can change the way the drone is flying to make it limp along a little longer.

Meanwhile, the system will go through an integrated database for landing sites where the UAV could reach within that time. The sensors included in Safe2Ditch ensure that it lands in an area where there are no people or animals. The landing locations could include parks, parking lots, and open fields. Sullivan said the integrated database of all landing sites is continually updated by NASA.

The database also lets the drone know whether a landing site is safe during a specific time of the day. For instance, a school yard is not recommended during school hours because kids may be there. Sullivan said the Safe2Ditch could “significantly reduce” the risks of drones flying over populated areas. NASA is looking to work with companies interested in further improving, commercializing, and marketing the technology.