Since 2004 UAV Navigation has worked with the manufacturers of the world's leading Unmanned Aerial Target (UAT) platforms. These highly dynamic platforms share a common requirement for advanced, professional grade autopilots. Only cutting-edge autopilots, such as those developed by UAV Navigation, are able to meet the demands of this type of flight. Other, inferior autopilots are simply unable to meet the same high degree of sophistication and reliability.
Furthermore, UAV Navigation has specialized its target drone solution to the point of having designed a dedicated autopilot aimed to target drone platforms: the VECTOR-400. This exclusive autopilot, of the VECTOR’s family, aims to become the ultimate flight control computer for UATs. It counts upon all the outstanding features of its previous model, the VECTOR-600, but adapting its hardware to comply with the most demanding maneuvers a target drone can perform.
We develop complete flight control solutions for target drones (UAT) of all types and sizes, from piston-engine to high-speed turbine powered aerial targets. The system includes all the necessary onboard avionics, together with a Ground Control Station which can be easily integrated with range telemetry facilities. 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 target drone; no additional external sensors are required other than the servos to move the control surfaces.
The reduced size and weight of UAV Navigation's autopilot greatly simplifies its integration into an aerial target. Likewise, the MIL-STD qualification ensures compliance with the high standards required by many Departments of Defense.
UAV Navigation uses its own advanced Hardware In the Loop (HIL) simulator to minimize risk during the development phase of a project. A virtual model of the client's platform is developed in order to produce software specifically tailored to the aircraft’s flight characteristics.
The autopilot takes care of all basic tasks required for flying the platform safely, including fully auto take-off (catapult launch) and parachute recovery landing, Return-To-Base, multiple waypoints, etc. This means that the operator can focus on accomplishing the mission. The autopilot is also fully autonomous; unlike other flight control systems which rely on a datalink to function correctly, UAV Navigation's autopilot can execute a complete mission even if the datalink between the Ground Control Station and aircraft fails. Additionally, the autopilot may continue the mission without endangering operational safety in case of a single sensor failure or even if the GNSS signal is lost.
Flight safety is the maximum priority for UAV Navigation. To maximize safety, multiple Built-in self-test (BIT) measures have been developed. The system is capable of receiving failure alarms from the autopilot or other systems onboard the aircraft to implement an emergency recovery manoeuvre (parachute deploy, return to base etc.). In addition to this, in case of engine failure the autopilot is able to optimize gliding ratio to increase range.
In addition to these basic functions, the autopilot can also interact with a wide variety of payloads, including radar altimeters for advanced functions such as sea-skimming, where the autopilot is able to control the aerial target just a few feet from the sea surface at high speed.
Special Features for Target Drones Platforms:
- GNSS-denied Navigation. Exceptional performance in GNSS-denied environments and when there is a jamming threat. High-quality components of the VECTOR-400 and an EMI/EMC resistant design (tested to MIL-STD 461), together with advanced estimation logic, serve to mitigate the impact of certain high-power signals and allow precise dead-reckoning navigation even when a reliable GNSS signal becomes unavailable.
- Autopilot Dedicated. The VECTOR-400 has been exclusively created for Unmanned Aerial Targets. Its ultimate design mainly focuses on complying with all the requirements of the target drone missions. The hardware is qualified to MIL-STD-810F and MIL-STD 461F.
- 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. In case of GNSS signal loss, the heading will be correct.
- 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. It also allows the aircraft to have a broad flight envelope and operate in multiple configurations during a single flight. The gains’ access is guaranteed after receiving the Advanced Gains Adjustment course.
- 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.
- Stall protection. The system is able to detect an engine failure and automatically start efficient gliding in order to maximize range and autonomy in order to reach a safe landing zone.
- Automation. Varying grades of automation of the control mechanism are possible (full manual, full auto).
- Geofencing. The operator can define fixed or moving No-Fly Zones (NFZ)/Exclusion zone over those areas that the UAV cannot overfly. If the UAT route is supposed to intersect the NFZ, the autopilot will notify the operator and automatically re-plan the mission to reach the objective using an alternative path or execute automatic actions such as: enter loitering or deploy the parachute.
- Health monitoring. The system is capable of receiving failure alarms from other systems in the aircraft, or from the autopilot itself, and to implement an emergency recovery manoeuvre.
- Sea operations. The autopilot has been extensively tested in sea environments. Operation using moving flight plans (i.e. GCS onboard a ship) or landing sites are possible. The system may be configured to work with a GCS in motion.
- Built in capability to add third party telemetry to the autopilot's data stream.
- Payload integration. The autopilot can also interact with a wide variety of payloads, including complex gyro-stabilized gimbals (DST, UAV Vision, Octopus, etc.), transponders, laser altimeters, radar altimeters and laser designators for advanced functions.
- User defined flying envelope. The flight envelope may be configured in accordance with client requirements.
- Towed Targets. The autopilot is able to control all kinds of towed targets, including control of a target which is being towed by a manned aircraft, and also a UAT which is itself towing another aerial target.
- Compatible with most of the datalinks available in the market.