According to Wired Researchers, Trish and Lou Glaab at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia have developed an in-flight diagnostic system that notifies drones about critical failures and forces them to land safely. The system, Safe2Ditch, uses algorithms to detect everything from structural failures to battery problems, and even shifts in cargo due to inclement weather.
“Basically, anything that you could envision for a general-aviation aircraft that would cause a pilot to have to make an emergency landing off-field could happen in a UAS,” said Lou Glaab. “Without a pilot, some onboard system needs to be able to perform this mission."
Safe2Ditc's prototype consists of a small circuit board which taps into the drone's autopilot and camera. The data from the connection allows it when critical problems arise, and take over when necessary. Even in its prototype phase, Safe2Ditch can adapt to the specific features and structure of the drone it is attached to, ensuring safe landings in troublesome situations like a motor failure. It also scans the ground for heat signatures to avoid people and pets.
As unmanned aerial vehicles become more present, the need to establish rock solid safety protocols and software increases. Safe2Ditch will bring us one step closer to fully automated vehicles in the sky.