Autonomous ship board landing of a VTOL UAV


The main objective is provide to a Vertical Take off and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTOL-UAV) the capability of autonomously land on a ship deck without human intervention and in a safety way.

Autonomous Ship Landing



The ASTRIL research group has two VTOL UAV

These two helicopters are equiped with an autopilot that allow us to send it high-level control commands and simplifies the control task. To simulate the movement of the ship deck, the ASTRIL research group has a Servos & Simulation, Inc six axis motion platform.

The main steps in this projects are the following:

1. Ship deck simulation

In this step, the real movement of a ship on the sea is simulated. This movement, depends on the Sea State, the wave direction and of course, the ship. Once we have the offline simulated movement of the ship, it has to be implemented in the motion platform calculating the Inverse Kinematics and avoiding the singular configurations.

2. Measurement of the pose of the UAV respect to the ship deck

This step consist on measure the pose (position and orientation) of the UAV, respect to the pose to the ship deck. Our first proposal is use a computer vision system made up for a single Point Gray, Inc camera. As the size of the landing platform is known, the 3D reconstruction is feasible.

We are also studying the use of a stero vision system or a mixed camera-lidar system.

3. State Estimation of the VTOL and the Ship Deck

As the measure could have noise, and could be lost during a period of time, a State Estimator is needed, to achieve a reliable state estimation for the next steps

4. Autonomous Landing Controller and Simulation

In this step the controller is designed and tested thanks to the previous simulation of the ship deck and a simulation of the VTOL UAV.

Our proposal is a fuzzy logic controller, but we are still working on that.

5. Implementation in the real UAVs and Tests with the motion platform

This is the last step that concludes the project.



See and



The main researchers of this project are:

And as Jose Luis’ Supervisor at UPM:



The research of this project began on July 2012 with a Jose Luis Stay at ASTRIL.



  • J. L. Sanchez-Lopez, J. Pestana, S. Saripalli, P. Campoy. An Approach Towards Visual Autonomous ship board landing of a VTOL UAV. Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems. April 2014. Volume 74, Issue 1-2, pp. 113-127. Springer Netherlands. Print ISSN: 0921-0296. Online ISSN: 1573-0409. IF=0.827, Q3.
  • J. L. Sanchez-Lopez, S. Saripalli, P. Campoy, J. Pestana, C. Fu. Visual Autonomous Ship Board Landing of a VTOL UAV. 2013 International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (ICUAS’13). Atlanta, Georgia (USA). May 28-31, 2013.
  • J. L. Sanchez-Lopez, S. Saripalli, P. Campoy. Autonomous ship board landing of a VTOL UAV. AHS 69 Annual Forum 2013. Phoenix, Arizona (USA). May 21-23, 2013.