BAE Systems has for the first time successfully demonstrated the ability for an unmanned aerial vehicle to recover to an airfield which is unfamiliar to its mission system.
The demonstration – conducted at West Sale in Victoria – was conducted by a Kingfisher 2 UAV, and also saw the vehicle successfully integrate into nearby RAAF East Sale’s busy air traffic services.
“Most autonomous landing technologies require a fair amount of specific detail about an alternate recovery airfield before the aircraft’s launched on its mission,” said BAE’s Airborne Systems Integration and Development’s general manager Brad Yelland. “We’ve shown that we can get the aircraft back safely when its mission system has almost no detail about an airfield but still has to land there.”
The Kingfisher 2’s mission system incorporates a navigation system that does not rely on standard GPS information, and instead collects raw satellite data and inertial measurement and air pressure data. The autonomous recovery payload uses runway co-ordinates generated by the navigation system and combines all the data to create a destination flight path. For the demonstration flights, the vehicle was given single latitude and longitude bearings of an airfield and told to land, and the mission system calculated the flight path, identified the airstrip using the electro-optic sensor payload, surveyed and mapped the landing strip, and landed autonomously.
“We are excited about the next phase in our development of unique autonomous-enabling technologies,” Yelland added. “These capabilities will provide an advantage for military UAV operators in theatre and contribute to the progress of commercial UAV operations in Australia and worldwide.”