When it comes to making drones safer, one of the first thing that comes to the minds of many is parachutes. Rather than a drone crash land, how about a controlled landing via parachutes?
It’s something that’s been talked about for years, and these days, drone parachutes are getting the green light. That’s crucial, as we saw multiple new rules announced earlier this year requiring emergency parachute recovery systems for certain types of commercial drone flights in the U.S., Europe, and India.
And one of the biggest players in the drone parachute space, Aerial Vehicle Safety Solutions Inc. (AVSS) just scored two major approvals that could make their use in supporting drone safety more widespread. Among the biggest deals for AVSS?? One of the parachutes completed the ASTM F3322-18 testing requirements for the popular DJI M300 RTK drone.
There’s now a parachute that’s compliant for use with the DJI M300 RTK drone
AVSS announced this month that it had completed the ASTM F3322-18 testing requirements for the DJI M300 RTK drone. The tests were completed with support from the third-party testing agency NUAIR, which manages the FAA-designated New York UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY.
Passing the tests means AVSS’s parachute recovery system is compliant with the ASTM F3322-18 International standard. And to pass that test, AVSS sent its parachutes, which were used on the on the DJI M300 RTK, through 45 safety and failure scenarios, which took place over three days at the New York UAS Test Site in Rome, New York.
That means global drone operators of the DJI M300 RTK who integrate the parachute recovery system from AVSS would be able to legally fly over people and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), assuming the operation met all other BVLOS standards in the area where it’s flying.
AVSS is the first parachute recovery system company in the world to pass this testing standard on the DJI M300 RTK, which is available for purchased from any of AVSS’s 40 authorized dealers worldwide.
What is ASTM F3322-18?
Being ASTM-compliant is set to be a crucial component for many drone products to be viable in the U.S. The ASTM consensus standard was developed by industry stakeholders and FAA representatives in late 2018. Thus, meeting those standards is a badge of sorts from the FAA as being safe. In fact, the FAA has acknowledged holding such compliance as a key test to drastically reduce flight hour requirements for Part 135 applicants in their Durability and Reliability Testing.
Over in Canada, Transport Canada sees it as a means of compliance for the DJI M300 RTK series for operations over people.
And in Europe, it’s considered the most robust level of assurance for M2 mitigations by EASA.
AVSS has been pursuing ASTM compliance for years now (the company was created in 2017). Back in 2020, ASTM was also working in NUAIR on a project where it put its drone parachute through 45 functionality tests across five different failure scenarios.
Oter compliant drones and their makers include general contractor and construction management company Hensel Phelps, which in 2019 received clearance to fly over people with a drone carrying the ParaZero’s SafeAir Phantom Parachute System. NUAIR also conducted testing of the Nexus, designed by Alaska-based company, Indemnis, which passed rigorous testing in January 2020.
Canada bets on drone parachutes for drone deliveries
NUAIR in New York has been a major source of drone testing, but Canada is interested too. In a show of faith from the Canadian government, that same company scored some major funding to test parachutes specifically for drone delivery.
The Government of Canada awarded a $1.1 million contract to AVSS to work with Transport Canada and Indigenous Services Canada to test a new parachute-guided delivery system to be used for last-mile delivery. It’s called the Payload Precision Delivery Systems (PPDS), and it’s set to be integrated into four commercial drones in March 2022.
The PPDS is a piece of technology that enables not just drones but also helicopters and small airplanes to deliver supplies in situations where landing and take-off of an aircraft is not ideal. It’s a parachute-guided delivery system, and it can autonomously reach within three meters of the intended landing zone.
Without it, drones either have to land. Or, they could drop items by parachute, but their actual landing point can be inconsistent and unpredictable.
“When we began developing the PPDS’s autonomous guided system to prevent drone parachutes from drifting into traffic and trees, we realized that there was a major gap in the current Joint Precision Airdrop Systems (JPADS),” Josh Ogden, CEO of AVSS. “This contract validates our assumptions and opens up a new market for our products.”
AVSS says it could be used for situations like delivering medical kits to search and rescue operators on steep mountains where drones can’t land, or delivering meal kits to firefighters on the front lines.
Initially, Transport Canada, Indigenous Services Canada, and 3 Points in Space Media will test and evaluate the PPDS for last-mile deliveries in Northern Canada, where drones will deliver necessary items to a First Nation community.
The PPDS system currently integrates with popular commercial drones including the DJI M300 RTK, DJI M600, Skyfront Perimeter 8, and Indro Wayfinder/FreeFly Systems Alta X.