Highly capable small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) provide substantial business opportunity, especially if allowed to operate in the suburban market. Reliability issues force the use of a safety pilot for each vehicle in operation, which is cost-prohibitive for large-scale commercial applications, and limits the use of these vehicles to line-of-site (LOS) operation. Extending the use of small UAVs to beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) and to fleet operations requires a vehicle system to autonomously perform emergency management activities as a replacement for the human pilot to maintain safety to people and property in populated areas.

A sample Safe2Ditch operational scenario. (NASA)

Safe2Ditch is a crash management system that resides on a small processor onboard a small UAV. The system's exclusive mission is emergency management to get the vehicle safely to the ground in the event of an unexpected critical flight issue. It 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 ground station. In the event of an imminent crash, Safe2Ditch uses its intelligent algorithms, knowledge of the local area, and knowledge of the disabled vehicle's remaining control authority to select and steer to a crash location that minimizes risk to people and property. As it approaches the site, it uses machine vision to inspect the selected site to ensure that it is clear as expected.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact The Technology Gateway at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link for more information: here .