Our goal at Event 38 is to build products that make aerial data collection for mapping as easy as possible. For a while now, our team has been focused on creating a better autonomous landing solution. At the moment, recovery of a fixed-wing drone requires either a large area for autonomous landings or an operator comfortable with taking manual control.
The two biggest concerns with any autonomous landing solution are:
Onboard sensors tend to drift over time. If there’s a barometric pressure change during a long flight, the drone will develop a discrepancy between its measured altitude and the true altitude above ground level.
A descending drone picks up a lot of speed as it dives toward the ground, but slow speeds are desirable for safety and soft landings.
After much research, development and testing, our engineering team has built a solution that enables a drone to descend rapidly while minimizing forward speed and flaring precisely before impact for a soft landing every time. This makes autonomous landings possible in extremely confined areas, surrounded by tall trees or other obstacles.
Today I’m very excited to share with the DIY Drones Community that this capability is available in our new E386 mapping drone, available as of today! The E386 has a fully customized landing algorithm which incorporates precision laser altimeter data with the ability to fully reverse the motor’s thrust. See it in action below.
Descent gradients as high as 60% are possible when landing with a headwind. The overall size of clear space needed to land the E386 is just 65 x 25 meters. The E386 knows exactly where the ground is and exactly where it needs to flare, every time. Precision flaring not only protects the E386 body from impact damage, but it allows the E386 to touch down as soon as it achieves a safe speed.
The E386’s landing setup procedure is completely streamlined and only requires you to define the landing runway’s beginning and end points. Mission Planner then shows you where the E386 may touch down given various wind conditions, as well as its minimum projected altitude along its dive slope.
The E386 also comes complete with a full year subscription to the Drone Data Management System™ Professional Tier. The Drone Data Management System™ is a cloud-based set of tools that store, analyze and share data collected by any drone. DDMS™ automatically creates a geotagged orthomosaic and tiles large maps to be viewed quickly in Map Viewer, our online map tool. The entire processing workflow is automated from geotagging to DEM, NDVI, DVI and more analyses.
DIY Drones members who want to add reverse thrust landing to their planes will soon be able to! We're currently working on generalizing our dive algorithm to work with other aircraft. Once it’s ready, we’ll submit it to be included in the master ArduPlane codebase - special thanks to Tom Pittenger for his help on this! We'll also post a tutorial here about setting up the parameters as well as hardware and operational recommendations. We plan to continue to iterate on this technique to improve landing accuracy and to make the updates available to E386 and ArduPlane users as they become available.
Questions and feedback welcomed! Feel free to leave a message in the comments or to tweet me @mJeffTaylor.