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Flight Control for VTOL UAVs

Referenced Navigation

UAV Navigation's Flight Control System (FCS) allows the creation of flight plans relative to moving references. This feature allows executing automatic ISTAR or completing sea operations that are related to moving targets.

GNSS-Denied Navigation
GNSS-Denied Navigation

Exceptional performance in GNSS-denied environments and under jamming attacks. High-quality components and an EMI/EMC resistant design (tested to MIL-STD-461F), together with advanced estimation logic, serve to mitigate the impact of certain high-power signals and allow dead-reckoning navigation even when a reliable GNSS signal becomes unavailable.

Smooth and Automatic Transitions

An easy and autonomous transition from vertical to horizontal flight and vice versa optimizes the battery consumption during these phases. Several emergency procedures, protections against sensor failure, multiple flight plans configuration are included in this solution for safety features, in addition to predictive paths, transponder IN/OUT capabilities, and FTS… Furthermore, the autopilot has a Stall Protection feature, which is able to detect an engine failure and automatically start efficient gliding in order to maximize range and autonomy to reach a safe landing zone.

Planned Advanced Missions Easily

The system may execute advanced missions where different automatic actions on waypoints are available. These actions ease the planning of several mission types, such as border surveillance, infrastructure inspection, naval operations, and reference following, etc. The operation may be fully automatic in both take-off and precision landings by taking advantage of the readings from the radar, laser altimeter unit, or enhanced GNSS solutions (RTK, DGNSS).

All the experience of UAV Navigation’s Rotary Wing and Fixed Wing Software

The reliability and experience acquired through the years with our Rotary Wing and Fixed Wing solution have been applied to developing an advanced and cutting-edge solution for VTOL platforms. The software is adaptable, supporting many different VTOL configurations under request.

Qualified Hardware

The hardware is MIL-STD-810F and MIL-STD 461F. This proves that the system has been tested by an independent party that certifies its outstanding performance in adverse conditions.

UAV Navigation has been providing complete flight control solutions for all configurations and sizes of rotary wing and fixed wing platforms since 2004. The experience and expertise acquired during these years have been used to develop an advanced, reliable, and cutting-edge solution for VTOL platforms, where the user may use typical flight control modes of rotary wing and fixed wing. The system also implements a smooth transition preventing abrupt changes between modes that compromise flight safety and put the platform integrity in danger. The autopilot VTOL software has also been optimized to improve the efficiency of the battery consumption required in these phases.

Our flight control system may control hybrid UAV VTOL platforms, making the creation of flight plans for a fully automatic and autonomous operation of these aircraft configurations possible. The system is capable of controlling these four to eight vertical and one horizontal fixed rotors in VTOL aircraft and configuring custom flight phases. Additionally, the VTOL software architecture is adaptable so it can support many other custom configurations. It is easy to configure through the Visionair -GCS software upon request.

The autopilot is able to control the aircraft safely within its flight envelope and the system allows different configurations to be loaded into the autopilot to enable changing conditions (e.g. if the UAV drops a cargo and the weight of the aircraft changes mid-flight).

The solution includes an advanced Flight Plan Editor to plan your mission, including actions on waypoints, creating flight profiles relative to moving references, or memorizing multiple flight plans, such as alternative and emergency landing plans. The autopilot also allows the modification of the flight plan even if the aircraft is on a flight.

UAV Navigation has developed an advanced Hardware In the Loop (HIL) simulator to minimize the risk during the development phase of a project and train operators in both standard and emergency procedures. A virtual model of the client's platform is used in order to produce software specifically tailored to the aircraft flight characteristics. If necessary, any special requirements from the client can be developed at this stage (e.g. integration of a particular camera, other payloads, or new specific functionalities in the system).

The autopilot takes care of all the basic tasks of flying the platform safely, including the transition between vertical takeoff and fixed wing flight providing fully auto take-off and landing, Return-To-Base, complex flight plans like health monitoring and configurable GeoFencing, etc.

In addition to the basics, the autopilot can also interact with a wide variety of payloads, including advanced gyro-stabilized gimbals (DST, UAV Vision, Octopus, etc.), transponders, laser altimeters, radar altimeters, and laser designators for advanced functions, such as geo-referenced pointing and target tracking or perform high precision and dynamic maneuvers including moving runway take-off and landing (for sea operations), balloon-drop takeoff or Multi-UAV operations. The flight control solution performs precision runway landings without using expensive DGPS/RTK systems.

Despite its small size, UAV Navigation's product is a complete autopilot, meaning that the unit contains all of the sensors required to fly the aircraft. No extra sensors or boxes are required other than the servos to move the control surfaces. However external sensors can be added to complement system performance, such as an altimeter, fuel sensor, ECU, etc.

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Other Special Features for VTOL Platforms

  • Smooth transitions between modes. Acquire a controlled change between vertical and leveled flight, ensuring flight safety.
  • Adaptable architecture. The VTOL software architecture is adaptable so it can support many other custom configurations upon request.
  • Battery optimizationThe autopilot takes account of the prevailing wind condition and controls the aircraft to follow the track whilst maintaining the most efficient profile, pointing the nose into the wind.
  • High precision take-off and landing in adverse conditions.High precision take-off and landing in adverse conditions with multiple landing logics.
  • Online Hard Iron Calibration. The OLHIC Algorithm ensures that the built-in magnetometer is constantly being monitored and calibrated during flight. This minimizes any accumulated in-flight error due to magnetic drift.
  • Status monitoring and automatic emergency procedures. The system can be configured to detect unsafe situations and to deploy a Flight Termination System (FTS), or start a return to base maneuver automatically.
  • Multiple gains settings. The autopilot can be loaded with more than one set of gains ('gains banks'). This allows automatic interpolation of gains depending on airspeed. This capability guarantees the best possible control under all flight conditions. The access of the gain is guaranteed after receiving the Advanced Gains Adjustment course.
  • Multi-UAV operation. The Multi-UAV capability allows the system to control multiple UAVs from a single instance of the Ground Control Station (GCS).
  • Automation. Varying grades of automation of the control mechanism are possible (full manual, assisted manual, full auto, payload driven).
  • Geofencing. The system features No-Fly Zones, which can be updated in real-time.
  • Health monitoring. The system is capable of receiving failure alarms from other systems in the aircraft or from the autopilot itself and implementing an emergency recovery maneuver.
  • Compact unit. No external sensors, Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), or Mission Management Computer is required - they are already integrated into the same box.
  • Integrated ADS. The use of a built-in Air Data System (ADS) allows the autopilot to fly according to the airspeed instead of GPS speed. This results in a more efficient flight under all possible scenarios. Also, in case of GNSS signal loss (dead reckoning) or magnetometer failure, the ADS allows the aircraft to continue the operation safely.
  • Built in capability to add third-party telemetry to the autopilot's data stream. For the most demanding fixed wing VTOL applications where ultimate performance, reliability, and connectivity are required, the VECTOR-600 autopilot is the natural choice for the professional.

For a more detailed description of the UAV Navigation FCS

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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.