Because fixed-wing drones are faster and more energy-efficient than multicopters, they’re often used for tasks such as mapping areas of the ocean. Many of them do require landing strips, however, which there isn’t always room for on ship decks. A clever new technique gets around that problem, using copters to catch them.
At the same time that the fixed-wing drone is nearing the ship, two autonomous multicopter drones take off from the vessel. They proceed to hover side-by-side just below the path of the incoming drone, with a cable stretched horizontally between them. As the drone’s catch line closes in on that cable, the copters start flying in the same direction as that drone.
This results in the line getting hooked on the cable, but not too abruptly. The drone subsequently shuts off its motor, and ends up swinging down to dangle beneath the cable. It’s then gently lowered to the deck of the ship by the multicopters, which also proceed to land on the vessel.
And while there are fixed-wing drones that can perform vertical take-offs and landings, these tend to be more complex and have a shorter range than their conventional counterparts. There is also at least one model that can perform belly landings on the water, although rough seas would pose a challenge for it – plus it has to be retrieved from the water after landing.
The new Norwegian “linecatch” system is demonstrated in the video below.
Dr. Hans C. Mumm