Roke has successfully demonstrated that its autoland technology could significantly aid search and rescue missions by landing an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) autonomously onto a moving Land Rover Discovery.
In collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover, the trial that took place last month in Erzberg Mine, Austria, in conjunction with the Austrian Red Cross opens the way to UAVs protecting and saving their human counterparts in dangerous situations.
Roke’s autoland technology uses cameras and image processing to enable a UAV to operate and land autonomously. Where most UAVs need an operator to land or depend on communications infrastructure to land autonomously, Roke’s technology requires neither. Instead, the technology intelligently identifies and avoids obstacles to land safely, even on a moving platform.
The lack of reliance on communications infrastructure means it can operate in the most remote places in the world and in areas that have suffered natural or man-made disasters.
Combining UAV and autoland technology with the all-terrain Land Rover Discovery, has the potential to bring off-grid and off-road capability to a number of new applications; from mountain rescue to targeting poachers in the wilds of Africa.
Dean Thomas, Roke’s expert on Intelligent Sensors and Autonomous Systems, commented: “The technology is already proven at sea but the challenge here was that the landing pad on the Discovery is much smaller and means we have just millimetres of ‘wriggle-room’.
“But it’s not just the precision of the landing that we’ve now cracked. We’ve also worked with Jaguar Land Rover to develop specialist retractable legs to allow the UAV to ‘sink down’, align and secure itself into the roof box for storage. Our next step is to allow the batteries to charge through the magnetic securing system – ensuring the UAV is always ready to fly.”