UAV Learns how to land like a bird

We’ve created quite a flap in the press over the last few weeks, our very clever team led by Antony Waldock has supported the development of the very first UAV to perform a perched landing using machine learning algorithms.

Developed in partnership with the University of Bristol, the revolutionary development of a fixed wing aircraft that can land in a small or confined space has the potential to significantly impact intelligence-gathering and the delivery of aid in a humanitarian disaster.

UAV perched landing trial
UAV perched landing trial

The 18-month research project was delivered as part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) Autonomous Systems Underpinning Research (ASUR) programme. We have demonstrated how the combination of a morphing wing UAV and machine learning can be used to generate a trajectory to perform a perched landing on the ground. The UAV has been tested at altitude to validate the approach and the team are working towards a system that can perform a repeatable ground landing.

Current UAVs are somewhat restrictive in that they have fixed and rigid wings, which reduces the flexibility in how they can fly. The primary goal of the work was to look at extending the operation of current fixed wing UAVs by introducing morphing wing structures inspired by those found in birds. To control these complex wing structures, the team utilised machine learning algorithms to learn a flight controller using inspiration from nature.



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