Self-driving cars might be all the rage these days, but what about the poor computer-piloted drones? Well, while no-one’s been looking, they’ve been perfecting the aerial version of the patented Italian Job getaway.
A team of researchers at the German Aerospace Center were looking for a way to lighten the payload of a solar-powered UAV, in order to extend its range. The landing gear is an obvious candidate to go—the wheels and gear don’t just weigh a lot, they also cause serious drag, all of which lowers the potential time a drone can spend aloft.
So, the team pulled off the wheels, but then needed an alternate way to land the drone. The solution is to drive a car with a roof-mounted net and giant QR codes: the drone matches the car’s 50mph speed, lines up with the tracking dots, and deposits itself into the roof.
The system doesn’t take a talented pilot either: the landing was conducted autonomously by the drone, making it repeatable, and therefore a semi-practical option for drone landings—not to mention, a good weapon in Skynet’s arsenal when it decides to kill all remaining human transportation.