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Flight Control for VTOL UAVs

Optimised Flight Performance and Safety

An easy and autonomous transition from vertical to horizontal flight and vice versa optimises the battery consumption during these phases.

Camera Guided Mode for Target Following

The autopilot is able to follow air or ground vehicles that send their coordinates or moving target coordinates provided by a camera. The targets can be followed with a specific time separation defined by the operator or by executing complex flight plans which update their waypoint’s coordinates according to the reference source.

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.

Easy Planning & Automatization of ISTAR Missions

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).

Fully Automatic Maritime Operations

The Flight Control Solution allows take-off from and landing on moving vessels. To ensure a safer operation, this logic is enhanced with a swell compensation which allows flying under challenging sea condition.

Sense and Avoidance (SAA) Built-In Capabilities

The operator can define fixed or moving No-Fly Zones (NFZ) and configure the autopilot to automatically re-plan the mission to avoid them and reach the destination even under communication failures. Also, the flight control system can detect the surrounding traffic and obstacles with the integration of a transponder ADS-B IN/OUT and/or visual-based obstacle detection technology.

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

The system allows different configurations to be loaded into the flight control computer 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).

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.
  • Automatic Emergency Procedures. The autopilot system is designed to respond autonomously to various emergency situations, including anti-stalls, gliding flight mode, and single sensor failure protection. It also incorporates FTS control, and multiple landing flight plans to ensure the safest outcome in case of contingencies, enabling the autopilot to select the most appropriate plan based on the specific emergency conditions.
  • 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).
  • An Automatic and Autonomous System. As well as its advanced algorithms for automatic stabilisation and control, the flight control system includes varying grades of automation for the control mechanism (full manual, assisted manual, full auto, payload driven), providing the system with a high level of autonomy.
  • 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 with Qualified Hardware. No external sensors, Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) or Mission Management Computer are required - they are already integrated into the same box. 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.
  • 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.