Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have successfully tested a plane that can land fully autonomously, without input from the airport. The project is called “C2Land” and to make this possible, the TU Braunschweig team designed an optical reference system, or in other words, a camera in the normal visible range and an infrared camera that can also provide data under conditions with poor visibility. Then custom-tailored image processing software was developed to let the system determine where the aircraft is relative to the runway based on the camera data it receives. Read more for a video and additional information.
The researchers developed the entire automatic control system for TUM’s own research aircraft, which is based on a modified Diamond DA42. It’s equipped with a Fly-by-Wire system to allow for control by means of an advanced autopilot. In order to make autonomous landings possible, 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 had to be integrated.