Otago Polytechnic
Drone

An Electrical Engineering student has invented a warning system to bring a drone down safely if it was at risk of catching fire.

Drones are commonly powered by lithium iron or lithium polymer batteries. A damaged battery can fail dramatically, heating up and then exploding. This will destroy the drone, and if it occurs in flight then the falling burning debris is also a fire hazard.

This Electrical Engineering student was a drone operator himself and decided to address this problem. He identified that the battery will expand as it heats up before it explodes. He developed a working prototype of his innovative solution, which involved attaching a load cell and microprocessor to the battery. The load cell senses the expansion of the battery. The microprocessor reads that data and determines if the expansion exceeds safe parameters. 

If it does then the microprocessor sends an SMS message to the drone operator's phone, to alert the operator to the battery failure risk. The operator has time to bring the drone down safely and remove the battery before it explodes.

April 2018