Commercial, Personal/Corporate, Products, Safety

Italian Manufacturer Tests ‘First’ Ballistic Parachute System for Helicopters

By Frank Wolfe | October 17, 2018
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Zefhir Helicopter Parachute

Photo courtesy of Zefhir

Italy's Zefhir, a division of Curti Aerospace, successfully tested a ballistic parachute system on a Zefhir helicopter at the Oristano-Fenosu airport on Sardinia, Zefhir said recently.

The test, which occurred June 22, "has validated the use of ballistic parachute systems in helicopters for the first time," Zefhir said, adding that it "is the only helicopter with a ballistic parachute in the world."

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"Installed above the main rotor, the parachute is designed as a backup for conditions where autorotation cannot be performed," the company said.

During the test, the engine was turned off to simulate failure after the helicopter reached forward flight at 30 knots above 300 meters of altitude.

"The helicopter’s descent speed stabilized at less than 7.5 meters per second (27 kph)," Zefhir said. "The ground impact resulted in deceleration peaks well within those required for the safeguard of human life as routinely assessed in crash tests for the aeronautic and automotive industries."

Bologna University's aerospace faculty contributed research for the test, while the European Commission provided funding to a consortium among Curti Aerospace, the Czech Republic's PBS Velká Bíteš and Germany's Junkers Profly.

About 80% of respondents in a University of Michigan survey last year said it was either "extremely important" or "very important" for an urban mobility "flying car" to have a parachute.

A new safety enhancement that aims to minimize damage to unmanned aircraft and bystanders in the event of a crash or system failure is now available for some commercial drones.

For multi-copter commercial drones weighing 25 kg or less, Austrian company Drone Rescue Systems has developed an "intelligent parachute" system to minimize damage to unmanned aircraft and bystanders in the event of a crash or system failure, the company said in August. The system is also able to monitor the flight status of the drone. When the system detects a system failure like a lost radio link, the system deploys the parachute, the company said, adding that the drone can function even in the event of a power supply failure.

Drone Rescue Systems has been developing the parachute rescue system since 2015.

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