Thales completes successful flight demonstration for full automatic landing and deck landing of one-ton class rotary wing UAVs

Thales today announced that it has successfully achieved, with its partner Boeing, the full automatic landing of a one ton class VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) UAV. The automatic landing was carried out on the back of a moving trailer, representing the movement of a ship’s deck.

The flight tests took place in the US at the New Mexico SpacePort, using Boeing’s Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) air vehicle. They show that the demonstrator based on MAGIC ATOLS (Automatic Take Off and Landing System) developed by Thales, is able at any given time, to provide the relative position of the drone in relation to the platform and ensure flight guidance and control with a better accuracy than GPS. The system operates at a long range independently of GPS signals, in all weather conditions.

Innovation-driven, this system offers a unique level of security and redundancy to allow certification. It thus enables UAV landings with no external pilot – a key advantage for both Army and Navy operations.

The flight trials will continue over the following weeks – this time with the demonstrator fitted on to a 3 axis-moving table representing the movements of the ship’s deck.

The MAGIC ATOLs system draws on extensive experience gained from the UK’s
Watchkeeper programme, for which it was qualified in 2008. The Watchkeeper is Europe’s most ambitious surveillance and intelligence UAS program.

Notes to editors
MAGIC ATOLS: Thales’s accurate automatic, compact system ensures maximum safety, in all weather conditions, during the critical take-off and landing phases of fixed wing UAV operations.
MAGIC ATOLS’ non-intrusive standalone architecture ensures quick and simple integration into any existing type of UAV system. In addition, the reduced logistic footprint allows quick and easy deployment compatible with land forces operations. The high precision and long range positioning sensor performance paves the way forward for future application on MALE as well as tactical rotary wing UAVs.

The current ATOLS sub-system has been fully developed by Thales in France with the involvement of several innovative SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). This system is part of the UAV avionics equipment suite developed by Thales for UAVs to ensure their flight safety and airspace insertion: ATOLS, Sense & Avoid, FMSS, GPS/Galileo – inertial Navigation systems.

Unmanned Little Bird: Thales had selected Boeing’s Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) Demonstrator to support this vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) definition study contract back in 2007. Thales chose the versatile ULB, an unmanned variant of the A/MH-6M Little Bird military helicopter, for its compact size, mission flexibility, performance and proven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capability.

About Thales
Thales is a global technology leader for the Defence & Security and the Aerospace & Transport markets. In 2010, the company generated revenues of €13.1 billion with 68,000 employees in 50 countries. With its 22,500 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design, develop and deploy equipment, systems and services that meet the most complex security
requirements. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world working with customers as local partners.