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Built-in Safety and Failsafe Systems in Drones

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

Contributed by Amit Lal

With the advent of technology more and more conventional methods are being modified and many are leading to be unmanned. This eliminates the risks from human factors but still there are chances of failure in certain circumstances. To overcome these failures many measures are taken. These safety measures are of two categories.

Safety Systems : These are the mechanisms employed to prevent any unlikely hazard from happening. Failsafe System : These are the systems that are employed for keeping the drone safe or taking minimum damage whereas delivering minimum damage to surroundings in case of any failures.

The common built-in safety measures in a Drone are: Parachutes : Parachutes have been a part of the aviation world for decades. They embody a relatively simple concept that has stood the test of time. Usually, the most precious cargo an aircraft carries is its pilot. That’s why parachutes are most often associated with ejector seats and emergency bail-outs.

In the case of a commercial drone, the emphasis switches to the safety of people and structures below, as well as the preservation of valuable payloads. Parachute is a failsafe system.

Geo-fencing : Geofencing technology has been around for a while. DJI first introduced its system in 2015 and several drone manufacturers have similar software in place. Effectively, geofencing tech creates virtual, location-based barriers that prevent drone flights and take-offs in sensitive areas: usually around airports and one-off locations where crowds will be present, like festivals and sporting events. Geo-fencing is a safety system.

Computer Vision : One technology leads the way when we’re talking about drone safety: Computer vision. This sector of AI has allowed companies like Movidius, DJI, Intel and Skydio to provide drones with the visual awareness required to avoid obstacles and, in some cases, navigate around them completely.

The first major obstacle avoidance systems came to the fore in 2016, with the launch of the DJI Phantom 4 and the Yuneec Typhoon H – Intel’s RealSense technology helped with that. Since then, we’ve come a long way; arguably culminating in the launch of the Skydio R1 at the start of 2018.

Computer Vision is a safety system.

Lighting : One often overlooked safety feature for drones is adequate lighting. The standard lights that come with consumer models are rarely bright enough to meet the night flight requirements of national aviation bodies. They can also be tough for pilots to spot in gloomy conditions. More powerful lighting accessories are needed in many circumstances.

Lighting is a safety system.

ADS-B : In October DJI announced AirSense, a feature in the DJI Pilot application that displays warnings to Mavic 2 Enterprise or Matrice 200 Series pilots when a signal from a nearby aeroplane or helicopter is detected.

AirSense alerts drone pilots of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) signals to lower the risk of collisions and disruption, providing an extra level of safety in congested airspace.

ADS-B is a safety system.

RTL / RTH : Return to Launch or Return to Home is a great feature that is used in most of the least drones that help the drone return to the starting home location in case of signal loss or low battery or when triggered by the pilot. This feature helps in the drone return at a set altitude without the pilot controlling it.

RTL is a failsafe system.

Airbag Fail-safe : To minimise the effect of impact with the ground or a body of water, UAVs may also be fitted with inflatable airbags or crushable “crumple zone” structures. These airbags protect the drone from any major damage. Airbag is a fail-safe system.

These are the most common Safety Systems and Failsafe Systems used in the modern day drones.

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