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NUAIR tests drone parachute-recovery system at Rome test site

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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The Horsefly-manufactured drone landed safely with a parachute-recovery system from the Canadian firm Aerial Vehicle Safety Solutions Inc. (AVSS) during NUAIR testing at the drone test site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome. NUAIR is based in Syracuse. (Photo credit: AVSS, provided by NUAIR)

ROME, N.Y. —NUAIR says it recently put a drone parachute-recovery system (PRS) through safety and failure scenarios over multiple days at the New York UAS test site in Rome.

UAS is short for unmanned-aircraft systems.

The drone parachute-recovery system is a product of Aerial Vehicle Safety Solutions Inc. (AVSS), a company based in Rothesay, New Brunswick, Canada.

Syracuse–based NUAIR is short for the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance. The nonprofit focuses on UAS operations, aeronautical research, safety management, and consulting services. A UAS includes a drone and equipment used to control its flight. A drone is also referred to in the industry as an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.

The tests were successful on the Horsefly drone, which is produced by Workhorse (NASDAQ: WKHS), a Loveland, Ohio-based technology company. The tests prove the AVSS parachute recovery system complies with ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International parachute standard F3322-18, allowing Workhorse to expedite its durability and reliability testing requirements, NUAIR said. It also allows commercial drone pilots utilizing this platform combination to fly over people “legally and safely.”

NUAIR has now conducted five parachute standard validations since the standard was published in 2018, the nonprofit noted.

Testing for drone safety

Drone-safety standards “continue to be developed to keep skies safe, much like how safety standards for cars and trucks keep roads safe,” per the NUAIR release. Before a motor-vehicle manufacturer can put its vehicles on the road, it must have the components tested by a third party to confirm, or validate, that the product complies with current standards. The process is the same for drones, with NUAIR acting as the third-party validation service.

The AVSS parachute-recovery system is a safety product for drones. In the event of a drone malfunction in the air, the system will automatically cut power to the drone, deploy a parachute, and allow the aircraft to descend slowly from the sky. This safety system “significantly decreases the potential of harm” to people or property on the ground and reduces the risk of damage to the drone itself.

“The AVSS drone parachute tests conducted at Oneida County’s UAS Test Site at Griffiss are vital to ensuring safe commercial drone operations,” Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said “Our test site continues to lead the way in drone development, and these latest standard validations will advance the entire industry to new heights. With our partners at NUAIR, Oneida County is flourishing as a world-renowned hub for UAS innovation.”

NUAIR has now conducted three successful validations for AVSS, including the first one in 2020. Drones come in many shapes and sizes, so the parachute validation is “tied specifically” to the type of drone that was used during testing.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits most drones from flying over people. New FAA rules have made the process to legally fly over people “easier,” including one that removes the need to apply for a waiver to fly over people if drone pilots can show they have safety mitigations in place that meet an FAA-approved method of compliance (MOC). The MOC is still being finalized, which includes the parameters of having a validated parachute-recovery system.

“It was great working with AVSS again and I’m happy we were able to successfully validate their product to two more platforms,” Tony Basile, COO of NUAIR. “Our crew at the New York UAS Test Site has these validation tests down pat, making the whole process effortless and cost effective for our clients.”

The validation of AVSS’s PRS product on the Horsefly allows Workhorse and its partner United Parcel Service (UPS) to advance the reality of economically viable, routine package delivery via drones. The Horsefly a custom-built, American-made drone designed for safety and efficiency, can fly autonomously, and can undergo the rigors of day-to-day deliveries. Workhorse has developed electric delivery trucks which pair with the Horsefly, providing a take-off and landing pad on the roof with charging capabilities and a control center for the driver to program the drone’s delivery route.