Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) Parachute Recovery Tutorial


The emerging UAS industry (aka drones) is experiencing an era of rapid growth as of 2014. The Teal Group published a forecast this year that the industry will grow in excess of $91B over the next 10 years. That may below! Not only are the number of products offered exploding, but the value, size and weight of these systems is also increasing rapidly. In addition there are growing concerns about the safety and reliability of these systems and the desire to offer a means of safely recovering these systems in the event of a failure, or if there is a lack of suitable safe landing areas. The most cost effective method to mitigate these concerns is the simple and humble parachute. With this in mind I wanted to write a paper introducing the reader to many of the concepts to take into consideration. Also to help understand the choices available with various recovery technologies, their advantages, and disadvantages. We at Fruity Chutes have been making recovery systems for small to medium size UAS since 2009 and currently have shipped thousands of parachute systems around the world.

The key factors driving the need for parachute recovery systems are:

Value can be very high – Not only are the airframes valuable but the payloads can be even more valuable. Total system values of $20K are common place. Many commercial UAS can have total systems values as high as $500K when you consider exotic imaging sensors, professional cinematography equipment, or advanced sensor technology.
Suitable Landing Area – In many situations the UAS may be used in areas where there is no way to land it. Fixed Wing UAS in particular can have issues when used in remote locations and where there is no landing field. In this case a parachute system becomes the primary recovery method.
Safety – As these systems grow in weight and size having them crash when something goes wrong is not a good idea. In our current litigious society many UAS providers and users equip their system with a backup recovery system. Some have found that providing a recovery system lowers the operational liability insurance premium by more than the cost of the recovery system, it is a win-win.
Government Regulatory – Many countries aviation rules are now mandating that UAS must include a backup means of recovery in the event of some sort of failure. Countries included are France, Canada, Australia and others. Many of the EU countries are looking closely at this requirement and expected to enact rules mandating this. In the United Stated it’s only a matter of time before the FAA takes this up as well and mandates a similar rule in order to mitigate public safety concerns.

While many UAS users and businesses have thought about parachutes as a method of recovery, most have less understanding about the types of products being offered, the deployment methods, and what are the best products to use depending on the type of UAS.

Factors to consider for a UAS Parachute Recovery System – These include:
Type of Parachute – This includes the canopy shape, type of canopy materials used, strength, and weight. We will introduce the concept of the parachutes “Performance Rating” here.
Proper Parachute Sizing – Choose the optimal size bases on your UAS weight. Too small can lead to damage upon landing. Too large and the UAS can be dragged by the wind and have delayed deployment time.
Deployment System – Deployment system is the means of which the parachute is ejected from the UAS intothe airstream. This can vary widely depending on the UAS type (eg fixed wing, or multi-copters).

Most UAS recovery systems sold are done as an entire system bundle having everything needed.

To read more about UAS recovery technology please visit the online article at Fruity Chutes website – Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) Parachute Recovery Tutorial.