Never have Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) or drones been allowed to fly over groups of people but it seems like a new innovation in drone parachute technology by a company called Indemnis may change that in the near future.
It’s a federal law under the FAA to not fly over any non-participants of any drone flight which is why you won’t see them flying (legally anyhow) at any sporting events or music festivals. The reason being if the drone hits a loses a propeller by colliding with an obstruction, runs out of battery, or malfunctions mid-flight then it has potential to do some serious harm to those underneath. Indemnis’s founder Amber McDonald saw an opportunity when she worked in the film industry and decided to put her mind to the task of creating a safe and reliable solution to unforeseen drone failures.
A traditional parachute deploys too slowly and would likely be caught in the rotors of the aircraft, compromising the effectiveness of the chute and ultimately have little effect on its inevitable meeting with the surface of the earth. To overcome this, they engineered a system that first inflated itself in a tube-like fashion and then became rigid with the parachute inside. It then propelled the chute outwards, ensuring that when it opened up it was far from the propellers and was protecting the lines of the chute inside.
Arriving at the product they have available today involved years of research and development, forcing them to invent new ways of adhering materials and filing patents for those discoveries. With the reliability of this product confirmed by a government agency like the FAA, it may mean that, in the not so distant future, commercial drone operators may be able to gain clearance to fly any drone over a crowd of people by just fixing one of Indemnis’s parachutes to the side of their craft.