Thales, along with its partner Boeing, tested the full automatic landing of a one-ton class Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) UAV, the company said Tuesday. The automatic landing was carried out on the back of a moving trailer, representing the movement of a ship’s deck.
The flight tests took place at the New Mexico SpacePort, using Boeing’s Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) air vehicle. According to Thales, the tests prove the demonstrator, which is based on Thales' MAGIC Automatic Take Off and Landing System, is able to provide the relative position of the drone in relation to the platform and ensure flight guidance and control with a better accuracy than GPS. The system operates at a long range independently of GPS signals, in all weather conditions. In addition, Thales said the tests demonstrate the UAV's ability to land with no external pilot, a key advantage for both Army and Navy operations.
The flight trials will continue over the following weeks – this time with the demonstrator fitted on to a 3 axis-moving table representing the movements of the ship’s deck. The MAGIC ATOLs system draws on extensive experience gained from the UK’s Watchkeeper programme, for which it was qualified in 2008.