Building on their earlier work with the Raytheon Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, the Australian engineers are working on the guidance system measuring changes in performance parameters, which might occur because of such events as surface damage, icing and engine degradation. The aircraft would then know, for example, that its fuel will not last as long as expected.
Finally, the system can bring an aircraft in to an autonomous landing without signals from the field, remote pilots or GPS. It can find a runway, navigate there, on arrival recognize the runway from its features (primarily, two straight lines, tens of meters apart), direct the aircraft on a pass to survey the field for obstacles, work out its landing maneuvers, and then land the aircraft.
In a laboratory simulation the engineers have tried the system with an oscillating runway, simulating a flight deck at sea. It worked, but more development is needed. Unsurprisingly, then, BAE says it is in talks with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory on the system. Although the company will not comment on the reason for the U.S. Navy's interest, the key point must be, if the system were developed for carrier use, it would not need a signal from the ship to guide the aircraft aboard. The advantages would go beyond recovering combat drones. The cost of pilot training in deck landings could be eliminated if the system, perhaps with a radiating backup, were completely reliable.