Safe2Ditch: An Autonomous Emergency Flight Management System That Finds Safe and Clear Crash Sites for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Emergency Situations

Organization: NASA Langley Research Center
Year: 2017

Safe2Ditch is an autonomous emergency flight management system that finds safe and clear crash sites for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in emergency situations. The crash management system resides on a small processor onboard a small UAV. The system uses the remaining control authority and battery life of the crippled vehicle in an optimal way to reach the safest ditch location possible. It performs this mission autonomously without any assistance from a safety pilot or a ground station input. Given the reality of an imminent crash, Safe2Ditch uses its intelligent algorithms, knowledge of the local area and the disabled vehicle’s remaining control authority to select and steer to a crash location that minimizes risk to people and property. Large (i.e., heavier than 50 lbs.) military or commercial UAVs are outfitted with redundant critical systems and safety systems to reduce the likelihood of a single-system failure causing a crash. This method is not feasible for the small UAVs. The payload capacity of small vehicles is limited to a few pounds, and the weight of the military safety systems alone would be significant. Safe2Ditch is expected to add less than $300 to the cost of the vehicle and weigh less than 10 ounces to minimize impact to vehicle payload.