Autonomous Drones Can Land on Moving Cars Now

By Chris Mills on at

Self-driving cars might be all the rage these days, but what about the poor computer-piloted drones? Well, while no-one’s been looking, they’ve been perfecting the aerial version of the patented Italian Job getaway.

A team of researchers at the German Aerospace Centre were looking for a way to lighten the payload of a solar-powered UAV, in order to extend its range. The landing gear is an obvious candidate to be nixed — the wheels and gear don’t just weigh a lot, they also cause serious drag, all of which lowers the potential time a drone can spend aloft.

So, the team pulled off the wheels, but then needed an alternate way to land the drone. The solution is to drive a car with a roof-mounted net and giant QR codes: the UAV matches the car’s 50mph speed, lines up with the tracking dots, and deposits itself into the roof.

The system doesn’t take a talented pilot either: the landing was conducted autonomously by the flying craft, making it repeatable, and therefore a semi-practical option for drone landings — not to mention, a good weapon in Skynet’s arsenal when it decides to kill all remaining human transportation. [YouTube]

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