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Flight Control for Target Drones

Protection against sensor failure

A high level of safety is provided because the autopilot is designed from the start to be able to survive individual and even multiple sensor failures. The autopilot will continue to function correctly even if GNSS is lost.

Compact unit

No additional external sensors, Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) or Mission Management Computer are required - they are already integrated in the same box

Catapult launch (up to 25G) and parachute recovery

High precision take off and landing in adverse conditions, even if the platform is launched from a vessel.

Qualified Hardware

The hardware is qualified to MIL-STD-810F and MIL-STD 461F

Precision altitude measurement for special manoeuvres

By taking advantage of readings from a radar or laser altimeter unit, the autopilot is able to maintain accurate height above surface level, which is critical for low altitude operations such as sea-skimming at high speed.

Integrated ADS

The use of a built-in Air Data System (ADS) allows the autopilot to fly according to 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.

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.


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:

  • Multi-UAV operation. The Multi-UAV capability allows the system to control multiple UAVs from a single instance of the Ground Control Station (GCS), or multiple GCS exchanging control of the UAV.
  • Flares and pyrotechnics control using the TGTIO02 Peripheral Control Board.
  • 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.
  • 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 system features No-Fly Zones in the GCS Software.
  • 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.


Case Study


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.