Robotic landing gear will help helicopters safely land on uneven terrain. This depiction shows the helicopter landing on a moving deck in the ocean.

Robotic Legs Expand Helicopter Landing Capabilities

Sept. 15, 2015
Retractable robotic legs help a landing helicopter adjust to nearly any terrain.

Looking to expand vertical-landing capabilities beyond traditional launch pads, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) developed autonomous Robotic Landing Gear that lets helicopters land virtually anywhere. While regular helicopters depend on pilots for safe landing on uneven terrain, these helicopters sport four jointed legs with force-sensing capabilities that retract and adjust to the ground beneath them.

Development of the adaptive robotic landing gear, funded through DARPA’s Mission Adaptive Rotor (MAR) program, continues at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The video below shows the helicopter landing on the slant of a grassy hill and on a launch pad that’s being thrown about in the waves of the ocean. The rotor buzz prototype was tested for landing on uneven surfaces with slopes up to 20˚, adjusting its legs based on feedback from force sensors. 

Watch the artist's simulation of the final design, and see the prototype in action in the following video, currated by Engineering TV:

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