How to Fold a Parachute
for a Model Rocket, Drone, UAV, and Storage

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Parachute Folding, Recovery, and Lifetime

Whether you’re working with a small 12” diameter Classic Elliptical or a colossal 168” Iris Ultralight, your parachute folding method can have a huge impact on your recovery descent and parachute lifetime. When put away for storage, a poorly gathered parachute can incur unintentional wear and damage over time, whereas neatly folding a parachute will maintain a longer lifetime.

For a successful parachute recovery, it’s imperative that you ensure the canopy is smoothed into evenly separated gores (fabric panels), the shroud lines are not tangled, and the shock cord and shroud lines are folded rather than wrapped. These are the key guidelines for countless applications requiring you to learn how to fold a parachute - for a model rocket, drone, multicopter, fixed wing, and any UAS employing a parachute recovery system.

How Does Properly Folding a Parachute Help While in Flight?

Following the aforementioned guidelines facilitates easy deployment; the canopy is allowed to unfurl in a guided fashion that is much faster than starting with crumpled fabric, whose irregular creases require more time to decompress before the canopy as a whole can expand. As for the shroud lines, we use a z-folding method that prevents wrapping and, therefore, tangles. Thankfully, the process for successfully folding a parachute can be simplified into just four steps!

Parachute Folding Tutorial
Annular Parachutes

The video and steps below will walk you through the same annular parachute folding techniques we use when preparing parachutes for our customers. These methods are ideal for our Iris Ultra series, including the Standard, Compact, and Ultralight models. To learn how to fold a parachute from our Classical Elliptical and TARC series, see our elliptical parachute folding tutorial. After learning how to fold a parachute, you can pack it into a deployment system or deployment bag by visiting the help page relevant to your system:

Skycat Launcher Harrier Launcher Peregrine UAV Deployment Bag Main Help & Resources Map

IMPORTANT: It’s important to remember that the user is responsible for ensuring their parachute is properly packed and that a suitable deployment method is provided. We do not guarantee that this is the correct method for your individual case. For insight on what parachute and deployment system pairing works for your situation, contact us.

What You'll Need

The only materials needed to fold a parachute are a parachute rigger jig, weights and, of course, your parachute! In our video tutorial, we used a 96” Iris Ultra Compact parachute.

Step-by-step: How to Fold a Parachute

1. Setting Up

Before you begin, set up your parachute rigger jig. Lay the parachute on the table. The side of the canopy with the “Fruity Chutes” label should be on the left half of your work area.

Parachute rigger jig set up on table, parachute laid on table with label facing up

Lengthen the shroud lines and connect the quick link of the bridle to an anchor point. This can be any heavy, immovable object, like a chair or table. This will help with lengthening and organizing the lines. Ensure the lines are not tangled before moving on to the next step.

Parachute shroud lines with kevlar bridle and quick link

Time in video: 0m21s

2. Organize the Lines

Take the left and right groups of lines into separate bundles and guide them with the center pull-down up to the skirt of the canopy at the rigger jig.

Demonstration of separating the shroud lines and guiding them up to the canopy

Set the left group, center pull-down, and right group of lines into their respective slots in the jig. Close the gate over the lines and apply moderate pressure while tightening the screws.

Setting the lines into the rigger jig, closing and tightening the gate over the lines

Move your anchor point back until the lines are taught. If needed, add extra weight to your anchor.

Tightening the parachute shroud lines by moving the anchor point back

Time in video: 0m49s

3. Flaking the Gores

Now is when you actually fold the parachute canopy. Find the gore - or fabric panel - with the label. This is the first gore. Pull the seams taught through the center, and pull the gore out towards you so it lays flat on the table with the seam running up the center of your work area.

Matching the seam of the first gore and smoothing out the parachute canopy fabric panel

Take the next gore, pull it over the first, and match the seams so they're atop one another.

Matching the seam of the second gore to the seam of the first gore

Then pull the rest of the panel out and smooth it on top of the first panel. This is called flaking the gore, which simply means separating and organizing each fabric panel.

Smoothing the second gore over the first gore

Repeat this step for half of the total number of gores in your parachute canopy. For example, on a 12 gore parachute like the one shown in the video, you would organize and smooth 6 panels on each side.

Once you complete one side, weigh down the fabric on the first side (to prevent it from coming undone), and repeat this process on the other side so that all the gores are completely smoothed out.

Six layers of the parachute canopy gores flaked and weighed down Parachute canopy organized into six layers of flacked gores on each side

Time in video: 1m19s

4. Final Fold

Remove the weights. On each side, fold in the outer edge of the gores, then further fold the parachute canopy into thirds to create a long rectangle shape. Use the weights as needed to hold the fabric in place.

Folding the outer edges of the parachute canopy gores inward Folding the entire parachute canopy into thirds

Disconnect the lines from your anchor point and remove them from the rigger jig. If you want to pack the parachute into a deployment bag, you can stop here and see our other tutorial showing how to pack a deployment bag.

Opening the rigger jig gate and lifting the parachute canopy and shroud lines out and away from the jig

If you want to store it, continue by folding the parachute canopy into itself, in quarters, toward the shroud lines.

Folding the parachute canopy in on itself in quarters in the long direction toward the shroud lines

Then z-fold the lines and secure them with tape.

Z-folding the parachute shroud lines Taping the parachute shroud lines so they stay z-folded

Time in video: 2m22s


Results after parachute folding viewed from straight on, right side, and left side

And that's it! You have properly folded your parachute, boosting the outlook for your parachute recovery as well as increasing your parachute’s lifetime.

To see more rocket, drone, and UAS demonstrations and tutorials, visit our YouTube channel.

More information on the Iris Ultra Standard, Compact, and Ultralight parachutes can be found on our webstore.

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