NASA's IKHANA research craft is a modified Predator B. (NASA)

Do Drones Get Vertigo, Too?

Up there or down here, it can be a struggle to maintain “situational awareness.”

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Glen MacPherson, the U.S. Air Force chief of human factor studies, said that UAS accidents stem from the arcane and exhausting pilot-machine interface. “Fatigue has been expensive,” he said. “Predator crews who are ‘tele-operating’ in Iraq are at least as fatigued as those actually deployed in country.”

Should a UAS pilot become disoriented, Vertigo Inc. may have a solution. Vertigo has built a recovery system for UAVs weighing 20 to 1,600 pounds: a round parachute or steerable parafoil that deploys whenever the vehicle assumes an unusual attitude or encounters high G forces.

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