Parachutes For Drones: People Protectors


While drones are increasingly used near crowds, the FAA still prohibits their flight directly over people. As a means of gaining FAA approval to fly drones over crowds, a company called Indemnis has developed a fast-deploying ballistic parachute that’s designed to resist entanglement if the aircraft is tumbling or spinning, thus making crowd flights safer.

Parachutes for drones aren’t a new idea, but heretofore the focus hasn’t been protecting people or property on the ground, nor, claims Indemnis, have these parachutes been able to reliably resist fouling following the violent tumbles multi-rotor drones suffer when rotors fail or the operator loses control. In this podcast recorded at AUVSI XPONENTIAL in Denver, Indemnis CEO Amber McDonald said the company’s parachute system anticipates FAA requirements for recovery systems that will make flying over crowds acceptably safe.

The Nexus parachute system deploys a round canopy within 30 milliseconds of a deployment command using compressed air in current models but a pyrotechnic in future iterations. The canopy is shot through a stiff fabric tube that extends clear of the drone’s rotors, thus allowing inflation outside the drone’s roll radius, thus eliminating or at least reducing the probability of entanglement.

The Indemnis system attaches to the drone as a small tube pointed downward. It has its own controller and can be deployed manually or automatically if the aircraft exceeds normal flight parameters. Nexus is mostly self-powered but draws a small amount of power from the drone to keep onboard capacitors charged up. Indemnis hopes to offer the system by the end of 2018.