Precision landing capability is a necessary development that must take place before unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can realize their full potential in today's modern society. Current multirotor UAS are heavily reliant on GPS data to provide positioning information for landing. While generally accurate to within several meters, much higher levels of accuracy are needed to ensure safe and trouble-free operations in several UAS applications that are currently being pursued. Examples of these applications include package delivery, automatic docking and recharging, and landing on moving vehicles. The specific problem we consider is that of precision landing of a multirotor unmanned aircraft on a small barge at sea---which presents several significant challenges. Not only must we land on a moving vehicle, but the vessel also experiences random rotational and translational motion as a result of waves and wind. Because maritime operations often span long periods of time, it is also desirable that precision landing can occur at any time---day or night.In this work we present a complete approach for precision shipboard landing and address each of the aforementioned challenges. Our method is enabled by leveraging an on-board camera and a specialized landing target which can be detected in light or dark conditions. Features belonging to the target are extracted from camera imagery and are used to compute image-based visual servoing velocity commands that lead to precise alignment between the multirotor and landing target. To enable the multirotor to match the horizontal velocities of the barge, an extended Kalman filter is used to generate feed-forward velocity reference commands. The complete landing procedure is guided by a state machine architecture that incorporates corrections to account for wind, and is also capable of quickly reacquiring the landing target in a loss event. Our approach is thoroughly validated through full-scale outdoor flight tests and is shown to be reliable, timely, and accurate to within 4 to 10 centimeters.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





visual servoing, quadrotor control, autonomous landing, precision landing, shipboard landing, maritime landing, computer vision, feed-forward, multirotor, autonomy, Kalman filter



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Engineering Commons