This is more than just a stunt. The ability is intended for solar-powered drones that can fly for weeks at a time and that could deliver payloads to areas in need at any time. With ability to land on moving vehicles, the drones could drop needed equipment with pinpoint accuracy and that equipment could then be carried to locations where the drone can’t go.
In their tests, the landing car was equipped with a net, which looked sort of like a smaller version of the safety net you’d have under trapeze artists. It was necessary because the researchers intend to remove the drone’s landing gear, an act that would greatly reduce the overall drone weight and allow it to carry even larger payloads. There’s another benefit, “The system also simplifies landings in adverse weather conditions including crosswinds or wind gusts,” noted a release on the drone accomplishment.
In a video documenting the landing, the drone first catches up with the car, paces it, temporarily flies two feet above the car and then uses visual recognition systems to find a target on the roof of the car and use that guide the final landing.
The drone did get a little help, though. The researchers revealed the driver was watching a screen that give him real-time feedback on if he should drive faster or slower to help the drone keep pace. “In the future, in practical applications, a robotic vehicle without a driver could be used,” noted the release.