Matternet’s M2 recently became the first drone built specifically for package deliveries to achieve Type Certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Now we have more details about the safety components as well as the parachute recovery system the M2 used to comply with the airworthiness criteria established by the FAA.
To gain the FAA’s stamp of approval on its aircraft’s design safety, Matternet partnered with California-based drone parachute manufacturer Fruity Chutes. The company provided Matternet with essential safety gear including shock cords, harnesses, and Iris Ultralight parachutes.
Fruity Chutes also worked directly with Matternet’s staff to provide technical support for integrating the safety components into the M2 drone during a four-year, rigorous FAA evaluation process. However, the actual partnership between the two companies goes as far back as six years, according to Gene Engelgau, founder and CEO of Fruity Chutes.
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The FAA evaluation required the combined 96-inch Iris Ultralight and M2 drone to undergo third-party testing for ASTM F3322-18 standards. This meant testing over 45 successful parachute deployments under varying conditions.
Another criterion for FAA Type Certification is that drones employing parachute recovery systems should complete, without failure, anywhere from hundreds to thousands of flight hours, based on the population density of the area of operation. As Engelgau explains:
This long process is about arguing your safety case to the FAA, and the parachute helps you make that case. It lowers the statistical probability of injuries, fatalities, and other accidents.
Fruity Chutes adds that in a post-success review between the two companies, Jim O’Sullivan, VP of regulatory strategy for Matternet, noted how parachutes were the optimal choice for mitigating ground risk.
Interestingly, the Canadian government is also mulling the use of parachutes in delivery drones. But that initiative focuses on testing whether parachute delivery systems can support drones to drop off packages at locations where it’s difficult to land an aircraft.
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