Fail-safe: What It Is and Why It's Critical for Safe Drone Operations
For the drone industry to continue to prosper, it is very important that they can be safe when flying. That is why the objective of this article is to talk about Fail-Safe, made out of software and hardware that are responsible for maintaining the security of operations in case it may be compromised.
- Gyroscopes and inertials
- GNSS (GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, etc.)
- Battery voltage and amperage controllers
- Communication link
All of these systems execute hundreds of calculations per second and the flight controller is responsible for interpreting them and making decisions to continue carrying out the flight. But what happens if some of the information received is not correct?
The use of Fail-Safe
Fail-Safe are actions configured in the flight controller that will be executed to protect the flight being made. These actions can be control recovery or flight termination. Below we are going to analyze some of the most common in the industry:
When the aircraft does not have enough battery to perform the flight, the Fail-Safe configured in the flight controller will inform the pilot of the battery status and will initiate a procedure to return to the takeoff point. If the battery status is very low, the drone will begin a flight termination procedure by performing a landing at the point where it is located.
Loss of communication link
If the link cannot be recovered, the aircraft will initiate a flight termination maneuver at the takeoff point, which will cause the aircraft to land.
Flight outside operational volume
If the aircraft leaves the defined flight volume or crosses the geo-awareness barriers and is detected by the flight controller with its GNSS, the aircraft must alert the pilot and, as programmed, interrupt the flight and return within the defined limits.
Another very typical resource is to manually activate a Fail-Safe through the control interface of the aircraft or the transmitter. The pilot has this option and can use it whenever he believes it is necessary, whether due to observing some strange behavior in the aircraft, not being able to continue piloting (for example, glare, dizziness, etc.) or activating it to avoid continuing to pilot or test that the system works correctly.
The flight controller may have other Fail-Safe programmed, such as in cases where it detects any malfunction of the engines, flight stabilization, interference, etc. Depending on the manufacturer, the aircraft could interrupt the flight by landing, returning to the take-off point or simply informing the pilot.
Fail-Safe and UAS certification
The use of Fail-Safe is totally necessary in certified UAS, where it is not only analysed that they exist, but also how they communicate with the pilots through sound alerts, messages in the flight interface, light indicators, etc.
The procedures for using Fail-Safe must be duly documented in the aircraft user manual and the pilot must know them perfectly before performing any flight.