Watch German Research Drone Land Autonomously on a Moving Car

How to stick an in-motion landing.

As drone technology progresses, we’re starting to see even more impressive feats of autonomous flight — zipping past trees at 30 miles an hour with nobody at the joystick, for instance. In a new demonstration of where autonomous drones are headed, scientists at the German Aerospace Center recently filmed a solar-powered drone landing on the top of a moving car.

Sure, it’s cool, and the successful landing is satisfying in the way of oddly pleasing gifs, but the more important point is why would you go to the trouble of landing like this? The scientists point out in the video description that when it comes to solar-powered UAVs, minimizing unnecessary weight is key; if you remove landing gear, that frees up more space for batteries or sensors.

Beyond more efficient solar drones, there are neat implications for modular robots. There’s a school of robotics thought that instead of trying to optimize one robot to do everything, split the system in parts. UC Berkeley’s VelociRoACH, for example, launches an ornithopter off the back of a cockroach bot. Who needs humans if, down the line, you can have a drone landing on an autonomous car-pad?

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