DARPA recently conducted an experimental demonstration of Robotic Landing Gear. Replacing standard landing gear, the adaptive system consists of four articulated, jointed automated legs that are able to bend and fold up next to the helicopter’s fuselage while in flight. Each leg has an integrated force-sensitive contact sensor in its foot. During landing, each leg extends and uses the sensor to determine in real time the appropriate angle to assume to ensure that the helicopter stays level without risking the rotor touching the landing area.
Having the ability to land on and take off from angled, irregular and moving surfaces would greatly expand the effectiveness of helicopters across many military and national security missions.
Robotic Landing Gear is being developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology with funding originally from DARPA’s Mission Adaptive Rotor (MAR) program, which concluded last year.