In this thesis two methods were developed for precise maritime landing of an autonomous multirotor aircraft based on real-time kinematic (RTK) Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). The first method called RTK-localized method (RLM) uses RTK GNSS measurements to localize a sea vessel and execute the landing. RLM was demonstrated outdoors in hardware and landed on a physically simulated boat called a mock-boat with an average landing error of 9.7 cm. The mock-boat was actuated to have boat-like motion and a forward velocity of ~2 m/s. This method showed that accurate landing is possible with RTK GNSS as the primary means of localizing a sea vessel. The localization was unaided by non-GNSS sensors or an estimator, but lacked full attitude estimation and measurement smoothing. The second method was called RTK-Estimation Method (REM) and provides a more complete and robust solution, particularly at sea. It includes a base (landing pad) estimator to fuse RTK GNSS measurements with a dynamic model of a sea vessel. In contrast to RLM, the estimator provides full attitude estimation and measurement smoothing. The base estimator consists of an EKF in conjunction with a complimentary filter and estimates the relative position, attitude, and velocity of a moving target using RTK GNSS and inertial measurements alone. REM was demonstrated outdoors in hardware for 18 flight tests. The same mock-boat from RLM was used as a substitute for a sea vessel, and the boat motion varied between tests. These dynamics were recorded and performances were compared. The rate of success was high given moderate mock-boat motion and degraded with more aggressive motion. Tests were conducted with forward velocities from 0 to 3 m/s and moderate to high wave like motion. Over all tests for REM, the multirotor landed with an average accuracy of 12.7 cm. The methods described depart from common methods given that the only sensors involved for tracking the sea vessel were RTK GNSS receivers and inertial measurement units. Most current methods rely on computer vision, and can fail in poor lighting conditions, in the presence of ocean spray, and other scenarios. The given solutions do not fail under such conditions. The multirotor was equipped with a standard off-the-shelf autopilot, PX4, and the methods function with common control and estimation schemes. The two methods are capable of landing on relatively small landing pads, on the order of 1 m by 1 m, at sea using measurements from satellites thousands of kilometers away.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





RTK, quadrotor, multirotor, autonomous landing, precision landing, maritime landing, boat estimation, sea landing, shipboard landing, EKF



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Engineering Commons