Freefly Astro drone pilots could face crash risk without this update

Freefly - Auterion Astro drone

After an investigation revealed that an in-flight software failure had led to an Astro commercial drone crashing, UAS manufacturer Freefly is urging all operators to ground their fleet until they have updated the aircraft firmware to v1.1.18.

On February 7, 2023, a Freefly user flying an Astro drone on firmware v1.1.14 faced an in-flight software failure that resulted in a crash. Following this, Freefly issued a notice urging all Astro operators to ground their aircraft with immediate effect as a precaution.

Now, after conducting a detailed investigation, the drone manufacturer has concluded that the root cause of the crash is an electrical hardware failure (onboard SD card system), which exposed software bugs that eventually caused the Astro flight controller to lock up in flight and lose control of the aircraft.

Read: Delivery drone severely damaged in test flight over Scotland

It was found that a failure in the onboard SD card system was leading to intermittent communications on an SD card pin. This intermittent connection exposed a bug in the low-level hardware driver that, if there was any interruption to the SD card connection, would cause the driver to enter into a busy loop.

Another issue that was discovered during the investigation was a weakness in the task prioritization code, which prioritized the SD card logging task over other critical functions, such as flight controls, when the system CPU was overloaded. This resulted in the SD card logging task getting stuck in a busy loop, which prevented all other operations and ultimately caused the Astro drone to crash.

Freefly says its team has done a thorough code review and that the new firmware package, v1.1.18, addresses both the issues in the software. The SD card logging reprioritization feature has been removed to ensure that logging operations will never take priority over flight controls. Additionally, the bug in the hardware driver has been fixed to prevent any future lock-ups. “These fixes allow the software to gracefully manage any SD card failures and allow the aircraft to safely continue operation,” says Freefly.

The bottom line is, if you own an Astro drone, update the aircraft firmware to v1.1.18 and do not fly any Astros that are on v1.1.14 or older firmware version.

Read: Last chance to register for youth drone competition UAS4STEM

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