From MIT Technology Review:
Lou Glaab, an aerospace technologist and NASA researcher, and his wife, Trish Glaab, a software engineer, have developed a system that they believe solves the problem. Safe2Ditch is a package of software algorithms and logic that resides within the vehicle either as in a small separate flight computer or an integrated mode in an autopilot. In the event of a mechanical failure, or a drained battery, Safe2Ditch will enable the vehicle to land safely, mitigating the risk of injury to people in urban and suburban areas.
It’s technology that the Glaabs believe will help companies make the case to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates all aspects of civil aviation, that these vehicles can operate autonomously and safely in the vicinity of homes and crowds.
The software was designed specifically for smaller, lower-cost aircraft. It monitors various systems in the drone, and makes decisions to either let it proceed as planned, if no emergency is predicted, or to take control, pick a safe landing site, and execute a landing as gently as possible given the impaired vehicle’s capabilities. The system stores a database of potential ditch sites for safe emergency landings, and is able to choose the ideal site based on range, size, type of terrain, reliability, and time or day constraints. (The team intends later iterations of the software to assess potential landing sites outside of database options, by analyzing the vehicle’s video feed).
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