Fixed-wing drones have outdone their multi-rotor counterparts on several occasions. As these drones do not use rotors they are highly energy-efficient and can travel long distances with ease. Therefore, they are a common sight in military and research. However, fixed-wing drones come with their limitations. Foremost, they require a landing and take-off strip. Not only fixed-wing drones but rotor drones also require a landing area. As either of these necessities is not available in open waters, the Linecatch System has proven to be the ultimate solution.

The Linecatch System

This system was developed by a team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. All sea-going drones could greatly benefit from the Linecatch System. This consists of two small drones stretching a line in mid-air to catch an incoming drone. It is similar to a fish-line, except here the two small drones fish bigger drones out of air.

This system works as follows:

  • Fixed-wing drones are equipped with a small box on their underside. As one of these drones approaches its host vessel at sea, that box opens, and a catchline with a hook at the end drops out and hangs down.
  • As the fixed-wing drone approaches the vessel, two multi-rotor drones take-off from the same vessel simultaneously. They hover side by side with a horizontally stretched cable between them.
  • The incoming drone’s catchline hooks smoothly onto that cable as the two copters start flying in the direction of the drone.
  • Finally, the fixed-wing drone shuts off its motor and is suspended in the air via the cable. It is then slowly lowered back to the vessel by the two copters.

How useful is this system?

Prof. Tor Arne Johansen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology says, “The operation can be performed virtually anywhere, without a runway or other infrastructure. The method requires minimal modifications to any fixed-wing drone, as opposed to more traditional methods that recover fixed-wing drones in nets or vertical lines. These require the drone to be designed to withstand the heavy loads encountered during landings.”

Moreover, with future upgrades, this system could not only be able to land fixed-wing drones but also stop rogue drones in mid-air. Probably by expanding the surface area of the cable or utilizing a mesh-like formation, rogue drones could be prevented from trespassing restricted airspace.

Watch the Linecatch System in action: