A sea-skimming operation is defined as a flight profile at a very low altitude, with a straight flight path and constant IAS to ensure high precision altitude control. This maneuver is performed to test radar antennas to detect low altitude threats, checking their performance in one of the most challenging situations for these devices.
A radar altimeter is used to measure the altitude above the surface with high precision to carry out this operation. The radar will be connected to the autopilot as a payload through one of the multiple serial or CAN ports providing the autopilot precise information about the aircraft situation regarding the sea surface. By using this data, the autopilot can include it in the estimation algorithm and perform this challenging maneuver safely and keep the aircraft inside its flight envelope.
Sea skimming operations are very risky as the aircraft descends at around a 7-meter altitude from the sea surface, so several safety conditions are required to initiate it. However, in our pursuit of providing an intuitive and user-friendly GCS software, the autopilot is in charge of evaluating the aircraft's attitude by itself, only allowing the maneuver when the entering conditions are met.
Sea skimming operations
When the sea-skimming operation is commanded, the aircraft descends to the pre-defined altitude with a suitable altitude profile and enough precision to assure aircraft integrity. Once this altitude is achieved, the aircraft will maintain the altitude and head to the breakpoint in the conditions commanded.
Finally, the autopilot will command the exit manoeuvre to the configured altitude once the aircraft reaches the break point or the operator aborts the maneuver. The autopilot allows two different ways of exiting: the fixed heading and the turned exit maneuvers. These two options give the operator various alternatives depending on the orography and the obstacles encountered where the operation is executed.
At UAV Navigation, we are committed to flight safety, and we keep the aircraft integrity undamaged even at the most demanding and challenging maneuvers. The VECTOR family of autopilots are the only autopilot in the market capable of executing automatic sea-skimming ops, which confirms our leadership in the market, always the first company to introduce innovative maneuvers in the UAS sector.