Germany: A team of researchers in Germany have landed an unmanned, electric-powered, autonomous aircraft on top of a car travelling at 75 km/h, something that hasn’t been done before. This has introduced a technique which the team claims could lead to lighter, longer flying UAVs. It is being said that the design incorporates elements of unmanned aircraft and robotics to result in an autonomous vehicle capable of approaching and landing on a moving car.
The landing was achieved using optical targets on the roof of the car, which was equipped with a flat net for the UAV to rest on. As the aircraft approached the car, it used the targets to line itself up and gauge distance within 50 cm, bringing itself in for approach and landing under computer control.
It sees the technique as a way to build winged drones without landing gear, making for a lighter aircraft with more range, extra space for scientific instruments and increased payload. The test flight took place at the Mindelheim-Mattsies airfield in Bavaria and involved a three-meter, 20 kg fixed-wing UAV built by the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at the German Aerospace Center.
The new landing technique could prove useful when applied to solar-powered drones operating at altitudes of over 20 km for weeks at a time, by simplifying landings in adverse weather conditions. Such ultralight solar-powered aircraft could one day find applications in remote sensing, communications to complement satellite systems, and for rapid deployment in disaster situations.