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Differential Braking to Improve Ground Performance and Safety for fixed wing UAVs

It is generally accepted that the fixed wing runway landing maneuver is both critical and complex, and that precise control is required to enable smooth transitions between the various stages: final approach, transition to level flight and speed reduction over the runway, the flare, initial contact with the runway and finally the braking maneuver to bring the platform to a safe, controlled stop - normally on the centerline of the runway for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). This must all be performed flawlessly to avoid damage to the platform and any payload.

Whilst some flight control computer manufacturers may consider that a 'complete' autonomous operation is the one that ends when the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) touches down - leaving the external or safety pilot to bring the RPAS to a full stop manually - UAV Navigation's philosophy is that the autopilot must be capable of executing all stages of the flight, from stop to stop.

For this reason, UAV Navigation has enhanced the internal algorithms of its autopilot during the landing phase to include complete control of the undercarriage, including differential braking where a main undercarriage is installed, to ensure that it can autonomously keep the aircraft on the centerline of the runway during the braking maneuver. To do this, our engineers have implemented and validated specific logics to control the aircraft heading based on differential braking.

The VECTOR–600 autopilot is able to control an aircraft on the ground, using brakes on the undercarriage wheels in order to allow the UAS to be steered safely, even at landing speed. This is a complex operation which, if poorly executed, could lead to the brakes becoming locked up and a subsequent loss of control. The algorithm developed by UAV Navigation takes platform ground speed into account at each stage, applying the correct amount of braking force to ensure a safe and controlled maneuver.

The implementation of this new capability enables the flight control solution to execute a truly complete operation of an unmanned aircraft, regardless of Maximum Take-off Weight or wingspan, in a safe and reliable way.

UAV Navigation is constantly seeking to develop this kind of innovative and professional solution, meaning that platform manufacturers can offer safer autonomous systems for their clients.

Contact us to find out how we can help you and to be able to take advantage of the most advanced features available on the market.


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UAV Navigation is a privately-owned company that has specialized in the design of flight control solutions for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) since 2004. It is used by a variety of Tier 1 aerospace manufacturers in a wide range of UAV - also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or 'drones'. These include high-performance tactical unmanned planes, aerial targets, mini-UAVs and helicopters.