Cutting Edge

25 May 2005

Sea Harrier jets land on autopilot

Landing on the pitching, rolling deck of an aircraft carrier is a challenge for any pilot, and fog can make it all but impossible. Now a system called Autoland has for the first time allowed a vertical take-off Sea Harrier jet to land without help from the pilot.

Autoland uses GPS positioning to allow the vessel and the aircraft to find each other. Inertial data from the ship tells the plane how the deck is rolling and pitching, so it can fine tune its approach and touchdown. Project leader Jeremy Howitt at UK defence lab Qinetiq says the system worked …

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