Flying a drone can be a nerve-racking experience. No matter how careful you are, there's always a chance that your several-hundred-dollar aircraft could lose a prop, lose power, or otherwise get messed up and come plummeting to the ground. That's why Nashville-based videographer and drone enthusiast Michael Pick developed SmartChutes.
As you might have guessed, SmartChutes is an automatically-deploying parachute system for consumer drones. Manually-operated systems do already exist, as do setups for larger commercial multicopters.
When the SmartChutes system's onboard flight sensor detects that the aircraft is in free-fall or that it's tilted over by more than 90 degrees, it automatically ejects the 36-inch (91-cm) chute from its spring-loaded canister within 350 milliseconds. Users can also manually execute a parachute landing, simply by cutting out the throttle and letting their drone drop.
Because it runs on its own rechargeable battery, the SmartChute will still work even if the drone's battery is dead – which is one of the main reasons that it might be falling in the first place.
While the prototype does look kind of ... big, Pick is aiming at a 30-percent size reduction and a weight of under 4 oz (113 g) for the finished product. He's now raising funds in order to accomplish that goal, on Kickstarter. A pledge of US$130 will currently get you one, when and if it reaches production – different mounting brackets are available for different makes of drones. The planned retail price is $160.
The SmartChutes system can seen in use, in the following pitch video.