Guidance and nonlinear control system for autonomous flight of minirotorcraft unmanned aerial vehicles



Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming popular among researchers and vital platforms for several autonomous mission systems. In this paper, we present the design and development of a miniature autonomous rotorcraft weighing less than 700 g and capable of waypoint navigation, trajectory tracking, visual navigation, precise hovering, and automatic takeoff and landing. In an effort to make advanced autonomous behaviors available to mini- and microrotorcraft, an embedded and inexpensive autopilot was developed. To compensate for the weaknesses of the low-cost equipment, we put our efforts into designing a reliable model-based nonlinear controller that uses an inner-loop outer-loop control scheme. The developed flight controller considers the system's nonlinearities, guarantees the stability of the closed-loop system, and results in a practical controller that is easy to implement and to tune. In addition to controller design and stability analysis, the paper provides information about the overall control architecture and the UAV system integration, including guidance laws, navigation algorithms, control system implementation, and autopilot hardware. The guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) algorithms were implemented on a miniature quadrotor UAV that has undergone an extensive program of flight tests, resulting in various flight behaviors under autonomous control from takeoff to landing. Experimental results that demonstrate the operation of the GN&C algorithms and the capabilities of our autonomous micro air vehicle are presented. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.