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Watch a drone autonomously land on a moving car

Or how to land a drone Knight Rider style
Watch a drone autonomously land on a moving car
Mariella Moon
Mariella Moon|@mariella_moon|January 21, 2016 6:30 AM

The German Aerospace Center has recently demonstrated a technique that enables UAVs to touch down on top of moving cars. And let's just say, if there were a modern version of Knight Rider, we imagine this is how his intelligence-gathering, search-and-rescue drones would land. During the test flight, the drone flew at around 47 mph, with the car matching its speed.

The solar plane's software then scanned for the optical markers the team placed on the 13 x 16 foot mobile platform they attached on top of the car. As soon as the plane recognized the markers, it synchronized its speed with the car and touched down vertically like a helicopter. The agency says its system is accurate to within 20 inches, which will be extremely useful for smaller landing areas.

Since this method doesn't need a drone's landing gear, the team removed their test UAV's completely, bringing its weight down to 44 pounds. In real-world scenarios, doing that would allow drones to carry heavier payloads and to fly much longer, especially if they're solar powered. Also, the demo required the participation of a human driver who received commands on a screen. But in the future, a drone could be paired with a self-driving vehicle.

The aerospace center developed the technique especiallyfor solar drones that provide live updates during disasters, replace failed communications networks or provide data on climate change. We'll bet it could also be used for search-and-rescue missions, similar to the drone-truck combo DJI and Ford are developing to help UN's first responders.

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Watch a drone autonomously land on a moving car