German researchers land a drone on a moving car

Drones are cool, right? Drones landing on moving vehicles are pretty cool too, though.

Researchers from the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics have combined robotics and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology to create a system that enables a fixed-wing aircraft to land autonomously on a moving ground vehicle.

(Image via German Aerospace Center (DLR) )
(Image via German Aerospace Center (DLR) )

The system was successfully tested using a 10-foot, 44-pound, electrically powered drone. To achieve this feat, the researchers fitted a special platform equipped with a number of optical markers to the roof of a car. The drone was able to navigate to a position, with 50 cm accuracy, above a moving platform measuring 13 x 16 feet. An optical multi-marker tracking system recognized the landing platform and perform an accurate calculation of its position relative to the ground vehicle. The drone then landed on it, with some computer assistance.

The drone’s movements and the ground vehicle were synchronized in real-time using the developed algorithms, creating a landing  that resembles a vertical helicopter landing when seen from the ground vehicle.

Although currently, a driver is required to be present in the car and  receive calculated control commands via graphical display (indicating target speeds), in the future, the researchers think a robotic vehicle without a driver could be used.


The system was designed for applications in remote sensing and communication, and could be applied to ultralight solar-powered aircraft that work with conventional satellite systems while flying in the stratosphere. The team also thinks that the technology could be used in disaster and emergency situations to provide live situation reports and replace failed communications networks.

Story via German Aerospace Center (DLR)

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