# Precision Landing

PX4 supports precision landing for multicopters (from PX4 v1.7.4) using the IR-LOCK Sensor (opens new window), an IR beacon (e.g. IR-LOCK MarkOne (opens new window)), and a downward facing range sensor. This enables landing with a precision of roughly 10 cm (GPS precision, by contrast, may be as large as several meters).

A precision landing can be initiated by entering the Precision Land flight mode, or as part of a mission.

# Setup

# Hardware Setup

Install the IR-LOCK sensor by following the official guide (opens new window). Ensure that the sensor's x axis is aligned with the vehicle's y axis and the sensor's y axis aligned with the vehicle's -x direction (this is the case if the camera is pitched down 90 degrees from facing forward).

Install a range/distance sensor (the LidarLite v3 has been found to work well).


Many infrared based range sensors do not perform well in the presence of the IR-LOCK beacon. Refer to the IR-LOCK guide for other compatible sensors.

# Firmware Configuration

Precision landing requires the modules irlock and landing_target_estimator, which are not included in the PX4 firmware by default. They can be included by adding (or uncommenting) the following lines in the relevant configuration file for your flight controller (e.g. PX4-Autopilot/boards/px4/fmu-v5/default.cmake (opens new window)):


The two modules should also be started on system boot. For instructions see: customizing the system startup.

# Software Configuration (Parameters)

Precision landing is configured with the landing_target_estimator and navigator parameters, which are found in the "Landing target estimator" and "Precision land" groups, respectively. The most important parameters are discussed below.

The parameter LTEST_MODE determines if the beacon is assumed to be stationary or moving. If LTEST_MODE is set to moving (e.g. it is installed on a vehicle on which the multicopter is to land), beacon measurements are only used to generate position setpoints in the precision landing controller. If LTEST_MODE is set to stationary, the beacon measurements are also used by the vehicle position estimator (EKF2 or LPE).

The parameters LTEST_SCALE_X and LTEST_SCALE_Y can be used to scale beacon measurements before they are used to estimate the beacon's position and velocity relative to the vehicle. Measurement scaling may be necessary due to lens distortions of the IR-LOCK sensor. Note that LTEST_SCALE_X and LTEST_SCALE_Y are considered in the sensor frame, not the vehicle frame.

To calibrate these scale parameters, set LTEST_MODE to moving, fly your multicopter above the beacon and perform forward-backward and left-right motions with the vehicle, while logging landing_target_pose and vehicle_local_position. Then, compare landing_target_pose.vx_rel and landing_target_pose.vy_rel to vehicle_local_position.vx and vehicle_local_position.vy, respectively (both measurements are in NED frame). If the estimated beacon velocities are consistently smaller or larger than the vehicle velocities, adjust the scale parameters to compensate.

If you observe slow sideways oscillations of the vehicle while doing a precision landing with LTEST_MODE set to stationary, the beacon measurements are likely scaled too high and you should reduce the scale parameter in the relevant direction.

# Precision Land Modes

A precision landing can be configured to either be "required" or "opportunistic". The choice of mode affects how a precision landing is performed.

# Required Mode

In Required Mode the vehicle will search for a beacon if none is visible when landing is initiated. The vehicle will perform a precision landing if a beacon is located.

The search procedure consists of climbing to the search altitude (PLD_SRCH_ALT). If the beacon is still not visible at the search altitude and after a search timeout (PLD_SRCH_TOUT), a normal landing is initiated at the current position.

# Opportunistic Mode

In Opportunistic Mode the vehicle will use precision landing if (and only if) the beacon is visible when landing is initiated. If it is not visible the vehicle immediately performs a normal landing at the current position.

# Performing a Precision Landing


Due to a limitation in the current implementation of the position controller, precision landing is only possible with a valid global position.

# Via Command

Precision landing can be initiated through the command line interface with

commander mode auto:precland

In this case, the precision landing is always considered "required".

# In a Mission

Precision landing can be initiated as part of a mission using MAV_CMD_NAV_LAND (opens new window) with param2 set appropriately:

  • param2 = 0: Normal landing without using the beacon.
  • param2 = 1: Opportunistic precision landing.
  • param2 = 2: Required precision landing.

# Simulation

Precision landing with the IR-LOCK sensor and beacon can be simulated in SITL Gazebo.

To start the simulation with the world that contains a IR-LOCK beacon and a vehicle with a range sensor and IR-LOCK camera, run:

make px4_sitl gazebo_iris_irlock

You can change the location of the beacon either by moving it in the Gazebo GUI or by changing its location in the Gazebo world (opens new window).

# Operating Principles

# Landing Target Estimator

The landing_target_estimator takes measurements from the irlock driver as well as the estimated terrain height to estimate the beacon's position relative to the vehicle.

The measurements in irlock_report contain the tangent of the angles from the image center to the beacon. In other words, the measurements are the x and y components of the vector pointing towards the beacon, where the z component has length "1". This means that scaling the measurement by the distance from the camera to the beacon results in the vector from the camera to the beacon. This relative position is then rotated into the north-aligned, level body frame using the vehicle's attitude estimate. Both x and y components of the relative position measurement are filtered in separate Kalman Filters, which act as simple low-pass filters that also produce a velocity estimate and allow for outlier rejection.

The landing_target_estimator publishes the estimated relative position and velocity whenever a new irlock_report is fused into the estimate. Nothing is published if the beacon is not seen or beacon measurements are rejected. The landing target estimate is published in the landing_target_pose uORB message.

# Enhanced Vehicle Position Estimation

If the beacon is specified to be stationary using the parameter LTEST_MODE, the vehicle's position/velocity estimate can be improved with the help of the beacon measurements. This is done by fusing the beacon's velocity as a measurement of the negative velocity of the vehicle.

# Precision Land Procedure

The precision land procedure consists of three phases:

  1. Horizontal approach: The vehicle approaches the beacon horizontally while keeping its current altitude. Once the position of the beacon relative to the vehicle is below a threshold (PLD_HACC_RAD), the next phase is entered. If the beacon is lost during this phase (not visible for longer than PLD_BTOUT), a search procedure is initiated (during a required precision landing) or the vehicle does a normal landing (during an opportunistic precision landing).

  2. Descent over beacon: The vehicle descends, while remaining centered over the beacon. If the beacon is lost during this phase (not visible for longer than PLD_BTOUT), a search procedure is initiated (during a required precision landing) or the vehicle does a normal landing (during an opportunistic precision landing).

  3. Final approach: When the vehicle is close to the ground (closer than PLD_FAPPR_ALT), it descends while remaining centered over the beacon. If the beacon is lost during this phase, the descent is continued independent of the kind of precision landing.

Search procedures are initiated in 1. and 2. a maximum of PLD_MAX_SRCH times.

Precision Landing Flow Diagram