Roke Manor Research, Blue Bear Systems, Bristol University, MBDA, SEAS DTC

Landing an Unmanned UAV helicopter is an exacting operation. As the vehicle nears the ground the air pressure beneath increases and a trained pilot typically has to step in to reduce rotor speed and control the descent.

A group led by Roke Manor Research has now developed and demonstrated technology that enables a UAV to identify a suitable landing area and land without any support from ground-based systems.

By removing the need for a trained pilot, the auto-landing system could open new applications for UAVs, for instance, by the emergency services.

Working with UK MoD funding, the group joined forces with engineers from UAV specialist Blue Bear Systems, aerospace manufacturer MBDA and Bristol University to develop a method by which an aircraft’s position and orientation can be determined using information solely from a camera mounted on the aircraft. This data is then used in conjunction with a flight-control system to automatically land the aircraft. The group claims that developing a measurement, processing and control system that achieves this autonomously required a highly innovative use of image-processing techniques.

The system has been trialled on Roke’s electric helicopter UAV where it not only demonstrated a successful landing onto a ground target, but also onto a moving ground vehicle.The system is now being developed into a standalone product for both fixedand rotary-wing vehicles.


EADS Astrium, Surrey University

The collaboration between two of the UK space technology sector’s prime centres of excellence – EADS Astrium and Surrey University – is potentially vital in maintaining the UK’s world-leading position.

Established in January 2009 following the sale of Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) to EADS Astrium, this five-year strategic partnership is already helping to drive forward research in a number of areas.