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Study project about airbags for drones - thoughts?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by GoddVibeAvionics, Dec 3, 2015.

  1. GoddVibeAvionics

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    Hi guys!

    We are a group of six people who, in the context of a university project, are developing a business idea that has to be related to drones. We are studying on the Technical/Engineering faculty University of Southern Denmark, and the course is called “Experts in Teams”, and is a semester long project, where we have to create business plan/idea, with a team consisting of different technical studylines. We chose the sub-course regarding drones. The team consists of two from Denmark (software/UX-hybrid), two from Finland (electrical) and two from Austria (eco energy).

    We came up with the idea to develop an airbag for drones - and in that way increase the security for both drones and humans during a loss-of-control situation.

    The idea is to attach airbags on the drones, which are capable of enveloping dangerous drone parts and reduce the potential physical impact and damage to humans. That way we also increase the security in urban environments - and not just in open fields. We believe that the drone use is going to increase dramatically in the next couple of years (and that the laws will open up for a freer use of drones), and therefore drone presence in the urban environments is something that we will see a lot more of. And that’s why we think it would be smart to prevent damage to humans and drones alike.

    As soon as a loss-of-control situation is realised by the software and sensors onboard, the airbag will deploy, possibly in cohort with a parachute, and then we can reduce the speed of descent and reduce damage to unsuspecting citizens below.

    We believe that our idea in together with other safety measures like advanced collision detection/echolocation systems and parachutes could be very useful.

    Our plan focuses on DJI Phantom drones at first (as they are widely used, has fragile wings and often a camera attached), and so far, we concluded that the airbag system would benefit the non-commercial drone users at first.

    And therefore we would like to get some feedback from people who uses drones :)

    What do you think of the idea? Do we have a potential user base? Would you buy it? Should we start a kickstarter? What would you pay?

    Thank you in advance,
    Good Vibe Avionics
     
  2. tomic

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    Yes to all of the above, if it worked and was reliable I would buy it. But why airbags and not parachute to save those below AND the srone?
     
  3. msinger

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    Parachutes already exist and very few people are using them. Therefore, I don't think airbags would be widely accepted either. It would be a fun university project and a great learning experience, but I doubt you'll be able to start a full-time career with this idea.
     
  4. Meta4

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    A few points to consider.
    Phantoms are seriously limited in their capacity to carry any additional weight.
    How much would your invention weigh?
    Extra weight will eat battery life.

    How serious is the problem that you are looking to solve?
    How many drones are in use & how many serious incidents occur each year?

    How is your idea better than existing parachute systems?
     
  5. msinger

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    More importantly, how many people are buying parachute systems now? If there aren't many, then there isn't a market for airbags either.
     
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  6. N017RW

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    The Phantom is a closed eco-system becoming less user-serviceable with each refresh.
    Therefore it's not a good platform to design for.

    Aside from the market-forces mentioned previously, it would seem at first glance that weight and power are your primary detractors with this type of approach.
     
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  7. NEair

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    Besides the issues around weight and compatibility with the phantom software what kind of cost are you looking at? Also I was wondering how you would mount the airbags. From my limited knowledge of airbags I would think that their deployment could cause a lot of damage to the uav itself. Interesting idea though! Good luck!
     
  8. GoodnNuff

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    You're right. I would look at the 3DR Solo with its cargo bay that is just waiting for this type of product.

    And I'm not sure that I'd poo poo this idea - many of us never imagined a day where our RC toys would have to be registered with the government. The possibility that some countries will require such safety features to license or register a drone could be a reality in the near future.
     
  9. N017RW

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    Good point in/with your last sentence.
     
  10. Meta4

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    The registration taskforce committee recommendations to the US FAA/DOT:
    http://www.faa.gov/uas/publications/media/RTFARCFinalReport_11-21-15.pdf
    ... has two and a half pages of calculations to assess the risk to humans from falling drones.
    There are lots of variables and assumptions but the answer they come up with is:
    the likelihood (or probability, P) of a catastrophic event can be estimated as:
    P event = 4.7x10-8 (0.000000047)
    or .. less than 1 ground fatality for every 20,000,000 flight hours (2283 flight years) of an sUAS
    (For comparison the probability of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year has been calculated as 0.0000015)

    Is it really worth lumbering small drones with the expense and weight to prevent something so rare?
     
  11. GoodnNuff

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    In a few years maybe those accidents won't be so rare?
    And not every drone is a small hobby drone like a Phantom.
    I am assuming that this won't lumber and weigh a drone down any more than various other mods and after market add ons that so many of us put on our drones.

    I'm seeing lots of possible applications for this in the future - Insurance rates for commercial drone operators might be more affordable when the drone has a safety feature like an airbag or parachute.
    Some areas normally off limits to drone operators might allow a drone equipped with such safety features to fly over crowds like parades or stadiums for commercial uses.
    Perhaps something drone delivery services might also be very interested in, both for insurance savings and PR and marketing; "Just look how safe our drones are!"

    Will the airbag also offer protection to the drone itself? I can see people who have invested $10 or $15K into a mapping or agricultural drone set up using this to help protect their investment in the event of a crash.

    If it deployed over water, would it allow the drone to float until you can retrieve it?

    And again, if this is viable and workable, I could easily see this becoming a safety requirement on the big heavy drones used for commercial applications that may be flying over urban areas in a few years.
     
  12. GoddVibeAvionics

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    Thank you all so much! Your comments were productive, really helped us and pushed us forward. Now we know more about issues and threats that concern our airbag system for drones. We try to solve these issues and maybe someday we can produce a working unit. So look for our "Anti Newtonian Technology" or ANT for short in the future. Thanks again and have a nice day, Good Vibe Avionics
     
  13. vgt

    vgt

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    The difficulty is in detecting a loss of control situation. Drones falling from the sky (which is the only situation where a parachute would work) are fairly rare, and one of the reasons I wouldn't get one. Getting a mind of their own and flying off in whatever direction they want before crashing into something is an area where an 'airbag' would work.
     
  14. kphantom

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    In concept, an airbag sounds interesting. But how would it work? By work, I mean what event deploys it? Airbags in cars work just in time to protect occupants by deploying milliseconds before occupants are "up to speed" from their seat resting point, and a few milliseconds after the outer body of a car has a detectable crash by accelerometers. Would the same approach work for a drone? I don't think so. Why? Because after the outer part of a drone crashes into something, damage is already starting to occur. It is the damage that is desired to be avoided. Are there other options for deployment rather than crash detection accelerometers? Yes. But this would be a different and potentially new design than how airbags are used on cars. This is an important design consideration.