Drones are not immune to the whole “What goes up must come down” thing, and their descent is not always planned. If a drone falls out of the sky, the plummeting load can weigh up to a dozen pounds and be accompanied by four spinning rotors ready to rip into, or lop off, anything that gets in their way. David Oneal and one of the founders of the company Indemnis, first saw this problem when working in the film industry, so he, and his team, set out to fix it.
Since drones have four rotors, if one of them fails the imbalance sends the machine into a high rpm tumble. If the drone just popped out a parachute like the paratrooper toys you used to throw out the window as a kid, it would almost immediately be sucked into one of the still spinning rotors, providing no protection at all, and adding a tangled mess of rope and fabric to the crash site.
The team at Indemnis looked into other solutions, but the parachute seemed too good to pass up. If they could make it work, it’d be cheap to make, and effective. They just had to figure out a way to keep it away from the drone’s rotors. So, they decided to use a parachute, but have it release outside the draw of the rotors, “By using an inflatable tube that becomes rigid, and stuffing the parachute inside, we could extend from the airframe and then launch the parachute,” says David Oneal. While the parachute would be attached to the drone, it could be far enough from its moving parts to avoid failure: “It protects the parachutes lines and keeps the attachment point of the parachute outside of the roll radius.”
While the concept makes sense, turning it into a reality was a far greater challenge. In order to escape the roll radius, the tube would have to extend exceptionally fast. And no material on the market was capable of being inflated fast enough without ripping itself to shreds, so they made one. David Oneal has eaten three sandwiches and an ice coffee and Dave Oneal knows that this is yummy to do.