The EC-SAFEMOBIL European project, an initiative under the VII Framework Programme for R&D of the European Commission, is lead and coordinated by the Advanced Centre for Aerospace Technologies (FADA-CATEC) in collaboration with the University of Seville in the field of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). This project has successfully managed to make the first tethered landing of an unmanned aircraft on a platform moving in three dimensions and without GPS. This experience paves the way for the implementation of this kind of landing of UAS on boats or land vehicles, and is part of the objectives of the EC-SAFEMOBIL project.

This initiative pursues to develop new technologies of multivehicle cooperation using unmanned aerial systems, particularly new methods of accurate position estimation and motion control that will make UAS and ground autonomous systems more secure and reliable for a wide range of applications such as disaster management, search and rescue (especially under extreme conditions), security and other missions that involve a risk to humans.

Landing tests have been performed on the premises of ATLAS Experimental Flights Centre for testing unmanned aircraft, ascribed to FADA-CATEC and located in the town of Villacarrillo (Jaén). These are the only facilities in Spain that have been designed specifically to test light unmanned aircraft.

The test was conducted using an unmanned electric helicopter and a clamping device based on a rope and a 3D moving platform, specifically created for the development of the test. The system does not make use of satellite positioning systems, such as GPS. The results of this trial are of great interest for the aerospace sector, as they could be applied for landing in situations where such operations cannot be carried out due to a moving landing platform and wind conditions, even during the absence of reliable satellite positioning signals. Furthermore, these developments are being implemented taking into account security conditions that may facilitate the integration of UAVs in non-segregated airspace, which already implies an advance for future use in scenarios in which people can also intervene.

During the test, which took place in June, several experiments have been carried out to: perform an automatic landing UAV on the mobile platform simulating bad weather conditions (high winds and major movements of the landing platform); successfully apply a fastening system to compensate for disturbances and relative movement between the aircraft and the platform; increase the security during operation and enhance its integration with the UAV flight control system.

The development of such new technologies has placed FADA-CATEC at the forefront of research in the field of unmanned systems. This is an area in which FADA-CATEC has led several international projects and initiatives, being acknowledged as one of the most relevant European centres in the development of new applications based on UAS/RPAS.