Mayday is like an airbag system for your drones

Mayday is a standalone machine learning device that can detect when your quadcopter is crashing and deploy a parachute.

Truth be told, the failure rate associated with drones is extremely high, no matter your skill level. Like the airbag in your car that will deploy when it senses a collision, the North UAV team has taken a similar concept and applied it to the world of unmanned aerial vehicles. Not only is having to repair your ‘copter after it plunges into the water or shatters upon hitting the ground quite pricey, the people and property below it are at risk as well.


Designed with this in mind, Mayday is a standalone machine learning device that detects when your UAV is about to crash and deploys a parachute to guide it to safety. The smart on-board computer monitors a multi-rotor’s flight patterns and intervenes if something goes wrong by activating a range of servo-based countermeasures.

What’s nice is that Mayday is fully programmable. Using the two buttons on the front of the instrument, you can guide each servo head to the waypoint you want to go to in a failure event. You can even configure the Mayday to do an assortment of servo release motions to safeguard it against a crash. This allows it to be used with almost any recovery system on the market. And unlike many other RC products, the Mayday is completely input protected.

Easy to use, just as easy to install! That’s because Mayday features a two-cable interface and simple mounting, and seamlessly works with pretty much every quadcopter setup. Because it uses machine learning to determine your normal flight pattern, you can employ Mayday without having to enter in a ton of data or define certain perimeters for it to be triggered by.

Beyond that, it can also be used all by itself without any connections to a flight controller. Attach the parachute release servo to the Mayday board, throw on a small battery, and you’re good to go.

“For example, you are about to do something totally unexpected and new, like a flip, and you want to make sure Mayday doesn’t fire on accident. Simply adjust your RC servo input to the lower PWM range to tell Mayday not to fire and to try learning this new motion. Or adjust your RC servo input to the upper PWM range to override Mayday and to fire a recovery system,” says creator Kyle O’Rourke.


In terms of size, the unit measures roughly one-square-inch and weighs a half of an ounce. With an ATmega328P at its core, Mayday is equipped with handful of sensors, including an altimeter to detect relative altitude, a gyroscope for rotation speed, an accelerometer for angle and gravity, and a magnetometer for heading to relative magnetic north. Additionally, the device can be powered by a variety of sources, whether that’s a regular Li-Po to a couple of AA batteries.

Still reluctant? Mayday boasts a manual override and suppression input for those who still want some autonomous protection but need more control.

“We’re not saying that a recovery system can completely remove these risks, but we believe that having one can help reduce the total damage by a substantial amount (sort of like an airbag in a car),” O’Rourke explains.

Currently live on Kickstarter, the North UAV crew has flown right by its $12,000 goal. Delivery is expected to get underway in November 2015.

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