If you’ve flown a quadcopter, you’ll know what happens when a propeller stops or fails: the thing flips around and crashes. Using a new system from Mark W. Mueller, Simon Berger, and Raffaello D’Andrea at ETH Zurich, however, quadcopters can automatically right themselves after motor failure and can even allow a human operator to control the drone until it is safely on the ground.
When a motor or propeller fails, the fail-safe routine keeps the drone more or less upright. LEDs on the arms show the user a “virtual yaw angle” so they can handle the robot as it flies, but eventually the team will add a magnetometer to handle this automatically. The team writes:
The system can even right itself if more than one motor fails. Most important, however, is the fact that the system can work in software – there are no hardware modifications at all. This means your usual quadcopter can become a self-righting, self-flying super machine with just a firmware update.