TUM – Technical University of Munich Menu
TUM's research aircraft lands fully automatically without ground-based systems
TUM's research aircraft lands fully automatically without ground-based systems. (Photo: Andreas Dekiert / C2Land)
  • Research news
  • Reading time: 3 MIN

Successful automatic landing with vision assisted navigation"Eyes" for the autopilot

Automatic landings have long been standard procedure for commercial aircraft. While major airports have the infrastructure necessary to ensure the safe navigation of the aircraft, this is usually not the case at smaller airports. Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and their project partners have now demonstrated a completely automatic landing with vision assisted navigation that functions properly without the need for ground-based systems.

At large airports the Instrument Landing System (ILS) makes it possible for commercial aircraft to land automatically with great precision. Antennas send radio signals to the autopilot to make sure it navigates to the runway safely. Procedures are also currently being developed that will allow automatic landing based on satellite navigation. Here too a ground-based augmentation system is required.

However, systems like these are not available for general aviation at smaller airports, which is a problem in case of poor visibility – then aircraft simply cannot fly. "Automatic landing is essential, especially in the context of the future role of aviation," says Martin Kügler, research associate at the TUM Chair of Flight System Dynamics. This applies for example when automated aircraft transport freight and of course when passengers use automated flying taxis.

Camera-based optical reference system

In the project "C2Land", supported by the German federal government, TUM researchers have partnered with Technische Universität Braunschweig to develop a landing system which lets smaller aircraft land without assistance from ground-based systems.

The autopilot uses GPS signals to navigate. The problem: GPS signals are susceptible to measurement inaccuracies, for example due to atmospheric disturbances. The GPS receiver in the aircraft can't always reliably detect such interferences. As a result, current GPS approach procedures require the pilots to take over control at an altitude of no less than 60 meters and land the aircraft manually.

In order to make completely automated landings possible, the TU Braunschweig team designed an optical reference system: A camera in the normal visible range and an infrared camera that can also provide data under conditions with poor visibility. The researchers developed custom-tailored image processing software that lets the system determine where the aircraft is relative to the runway based on the camera data it receives.

TUM research aircraft features Fly-by-Wire system

The TUM team developed the entire automatic control system of TUM's own research aircraft, a modified Diamond DA42. The aircraft is equipped with a Fly-by-Wire system enabling control by means of an advanced autopilot, also developed by the TUM researchers.

In order to make automatic landings possible, additional functions were integrated in the software, such as comparison of data from the cameras with GPS signals, calculation of a virtual glide path for the landing approach as well as flight control for various phases of the approach.

Video: Automatic Landing with vision assisted navigation

Successful landing in Wiener-Neustadt

In late May the team was able to watch as the research aircraft made a completely automatic landing at the Diamond Aircraft airfield. Test pilot Thomas Wimmer is completely convinced by the landing system: "The cameras already recognize the runway at a great distance from the airport. The system then guides the aircraft through the landing approach on a completely automatic basis and lands it precisely on the runway's centerline."

 

Publications:

  • S. Wolkow, M. Angermann, A. Dekiert, and Ulf Bestmann, "Model-based Threshold and Centerline Detection for Aircraft Positioning during Landing Approach", in Proceedings of the ION 2019 Pacific PNT Meeting, 8-11 April 2019.
    https://doi.org/10.33012/2019.16787
  • M. Angermann, S. Wolkow, A. Dekiert, U. Bestmann, and P. Hecker, "Linear Blend: Data Fusion in the Image Domain for Image-based Aircraft Positioning during Landing Approach", in Proceedings of the ION 2019 Pacific PNT Meeting, 8-11 April 2019. https://doi.org/10.33012/2019.16836
  • M. E. Kügler, N. C. Mumm, F. Holzapfel, A. Schwithal, and M. Angermann, "Vision-Augmented Automatic Landing of a General Aviation Fly-by-Wire Demonstrator", in AIAA SciTech Forum, 7-11 January 2019.
    https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2019-1641

More information:

  • Highresolution images:https://mediatum.ub.tum.de/1509764

  • The research project C2Land is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The project partners are the TU Braunschweig Institute for Flight Guidance (IFF) (https://www.tu-braunschweig.de/iff), the TUM Chair for Flight System Dynamics, f.u.n.k.e. AVIONICS GmbH, messWERK GmbH and Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH

Corporate Communications Center

Technical University of Munich Stefanie Reiffert
stefanie.reiffert(at)tum.de
Tel: 0049 (0) 89 10519

Contacts to this article:

Martin Kügler
Technical University of Munich (TUM)
Chair of Flight System Dynamics
Tel.: 0049 (0) 89 / 289 - 16072
me.kuegler(at)tum.de

Stephan Wolkow
Technische Universität Braunschweig
Institute of Flight Guidance (IFF)
Tel.: 0049 (0) 531 / 391 - 9877
s.wolkow(at)tu-bs.de

Article at tum.de

The flight demonstrator of the project FLEXOP at the Special Airport Oberpfaffenhofen.

Super-efficient wing takes off

In a joint effort by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), researchers have successfully developed new technologies for lighter aircraft wings that are still extremely stable. These...

TUM President Prof. Wolfgang A. Herrmann with Bavarian Minister President Dr. Markus Söder.

Aviation, aerospace and geodesy "take off"

The new Technical University of Munich (TUM) Department of Aerospace and Geodesy (LRG) will be launched in this year's winter semester, as announced by Bavarian Minister President Dr. Markus Söder in his policy statement of...

Flight simulator for aerial taxis

A vertical take-off into the mobility of tomorrow

In the near future we may see electric vertical take-off aircraft taking passengers to their destinations as aerial taxis high above traffic jams. But the flight system controls for these aircraft still represent a major...

Daniel Wiegand

Daniel Wiegand of Lilium is "Innovator of the Year"

The company itself shows the same vertical take-off potential as its planned flying taxi: Lilium GmbH, a spin-off of the Technical University of Munich (TUM), has been sweeping the start-up awards. The latest honor was...

Die Fahrerin eines autonom fahrenden Autos nimmt die Hände vom Lenkrad

“Programmers should not decide who lives and who dies”

What and how will tomorrow’s self-driving cars be allowed to decide for themselves? Tasked by the German government, an ethics commission has now drawn up guidelines to regulate these questions. Prof. Christoph Lütge,...