Fixed-Wing approach techniques for complex environments

Peter R. Thomas, S. Bullock, U. Bhandari, T. S. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The landing approach for fixed-wing small unmanned air vehicles (SUAVs) in complex environments such as urban canyons, wooded areas, or any other obscured terrain is challenging due to the limited distance available for conventional glide slope descents. Alternative approach methods, such as deep stall and spin techniques, are beneficial for such environments but are less conventional and would benefit from further qualitative and quantitative understanding to improve their implementation. Flight tests of such techniques, with a representative remotely piloted vehicle, have been carried out for this purpose and the results are presented in this paper. Trajectories and flight data for a range of approach techniques are presented and conclusions are drawn as to the potential benefits and issues of using such techniques for SUAV landings. In particular, the stability of the vehicle on entry to a deep stall was noticeably improved through the use of symmetric inboard flaps (crow brakes). Spiral descent profiles investigated, including spin descents, produced faster descent rates and further reduced landing space requirements. However, sufficient control authority was maintainable in a spiral stall descent, whereas it was compromised in a full spin. - See more at:
Original languageEnglish
Article number4109
Pages (from-to)999-1016
Number of pages18
JournalThe Aeronautical Journal
Issue number1218
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015


  • Deep stall, Flight testing


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