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Gilbert Lai, Kingsley Fregene, 'David Wang

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,

University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ont., Canada N2L 3Gl

{gmylai, kocfrege, dwang}@kingcong.uwaterloo.ca

and control of a small autonomous helicopter system

and some preliminary results are presented in this paper. At the top of the hierarchy is a navigation manager which specifies mission requirements via a flight

path controller to the actual aerial vehicle. The entire

design is based on a nonlinear model of the helicopter

that accpunts for the rotary wing dynamics, the force

and moment generation mechanism and the rigid body

dynamics. A time-varying optimal control scheme is

applied to the nonlinear model to achieve attitude stabilization while a PI outer loop is used for height control. Simulation results demonstrate the performance

of the system for some representative mission scenarios.

This paper discusses the design of a flight management architecture and control system for the Waterloo

Aerial Robotics Group (WARG) [14] autonomous helicopter ghetto bird (see Figure 1). The nonlinear dynamic model is adapted from the work of [l]and [4] in

which the helicopter is treated as a rigid body under

the influence of aerodynamic forces and moments.

1. INTRODUCTION

construction, modelling and control of small-scale autonomous helicopters ([l],[2], [3]) due to the possibility of applying variants of these as unmanned aerial

vehicles (UAVs) in diverse areas like search and rescue

missions, surveillance, inspection of power/gas lines

and military applications [4]. The difficulties associated with complete modelling/control of a full-scale

helicopter (see for instance [5], [6] and [7]) not only

carry over to model helicopters, but are compounded

by the fact that the dynamic behaviour of model helicopters are considerably different from those of fullscale models. Therefore existing control approaches

need to be carefully reconsidered and modified to fit

in with the autonomous control framework required for

UAVs [4]. One of the earliest successful works used an

intelligent control approach with linguistic rule bases

to achieve command and guidance of the helicopter

[8], with the condition that the dynamics were not explicitly accounted for. Control approaches somewhat

similar to this are reported in [9] and [lo]. Although

it is clear that the dynamics of a model helicopter will

be nonlinear, multivariable and coupled [5], a number

of linear models has been developed for the helicopter

(e.g. [3], [ll])and used for control purposes. Lee and

co-workers presented a linear control design based on

a nominal model of the model helicopter about hover

[12]. In the recent work of [l],[2], [4] a nonlinear model

of the helicopter was considered and nonlinear control

schemes were proposed with encouraging results. A

hierarchical hybrid architecture that governs the operation of a helicopter-based UAV is proposed in [13]

The architecture is made up of navigation, path,

and stabilization layers. The stabilization layer consists of a time-varying attitude controller and a height

control unit. Generation of desired attitudes and positions required for autonomous execution of particular manouevres requested by the navigation manager

is done by the flight path controller. The navigation

layer is the topmost layer, acting as an overall mission

controller/planner. It issues desired position coordinates and navigation modes to the system. The whole

set-up is depicted in Figure 2.

Although each of these layers is significant in the

total system operation, this work will focus more extensively on the stabilizing layer and modelling in order to discuss controller design approaches being investigated in our work.

The organization of this paper is as follows: Section 2 presents the nonlinear helicopter dynamic model

used in this work. The overall control and guidance

architecture is described in Section 3 while Sections 4

and 5 discuss the attitude stabilizing and height controllers respectively. Some preliminary simulation results are then presented and discussed in Section 6 fol-

0-7803-5957-7/00/$10.00

02000 IEEE

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case of an autonomous helicopter, the computer controller) changes the control stick position, which causes

the actuators t o make corresponding changes in the

blade pitch angles. The actuator dynamics are much

faster than those of the helicopter, hence it is common

practice to ignore them when modelling the system.

This makes the control signals appear to be affecting

the physical quantities (in this case, the blade pitch

angle) directly, bypassing the actuators. As a result,

it is a common practice to ignore the actuator dynamics and assume the blade pitch angles can be controlled

(adjusted) directly [12],[2]. This assumption will also

be made for the rest of this paper for simplicity.

Navigation Manager

3

z

XY.2

When the blades of the helicopter rotate, lift (thrust)

is generated through aerodynamic effects. Several factors affect the generation of the thrust: blade pitch angle, the shape of the blade airfoil, and rotation speed

of the rotor, . . . etc. However, among them, the blade

pitch angles contribute most significantly to the control of the thrust. It is obvious that for a particular helicopter configuration, the blade airfoil shape is

fixed. In addition, most rotor engines operate more or

less at a constant rotating speed in order to avoid the

complication of rotation speed variation. As a result,

the blade pitch angle is the one that can be altered

directly by the actuators.

There are two ways that the actuators can affect

the blade pitch angles. One way is called the collective

pitch, which affects the pitch angle of the blades (angle of attack) evenly about the whole revolution. The

magnitude of the resulting lift is proportional to the

effective pitch angle (angle of attack). In contrast, the

second way, called the cyclic pitch, affects the angle of

attack asymmetrically about the rotation (the angle of

attack is adjusted cyclically each rotation). The collective pitch controls the magnitude of the net thrust generated by the blades whereas the cyclic pitch controls

the direction of the thrust. Often, the cyclic pitch is

represented by two parameters a1 and b l , corresponding to longitudinal and lateral tilts of the thrust vector

respectively. For example, Figure 4 shows the relations

between the tilt angles and the direction of the main

rotor thrust vector.

lowed by concluding remarks and likely areas of future

work in Section 7.

A helicopter can be viewed as a system composed of

three major subsystems that interact together, resulting in the overall system dynamics. The three subsystems are actuator dynamics, rotary wing dynamics,

and rigid body dynamics [4] as seen in Figure 3.

ACtUiUOI

Physicd

Action

Rotary

Wing

Dynamics

Net

Forcc and

Rigid

Body

Dynamics

TorsuC

Intcraction

The helicopter accepts control LLcommandsfrom

the operator in the form of control stick positions.

These commands will then be translated (converted)

by the actuators into physical control action that alters the aerodynamics of the helicopter. Changes in

the wing aerodynamics for both the main and tail rotors in turn affect the net force and torque acting on

the body of the helicopter. Finally, the position and

orientation of the helicopter in the air is governed by

the equations of motion which are functions of the net

force and torque generated by the rotary wing aerodynamics.

Actuator dynamics describe the actuator responses in

the period between the assertion of the control signal

and the completion of that command by the actuator.

An example situation is when an operator (or in the

pitch (a1 and b l ) to the thrust vectors (TMand TT

for main and tail rotor respectively):

104

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ARCHITECTURE

Upon examining the model presented in the foregoing, it can be seen that the overall helicopter characteristic is composed of different layers of characteristics. The aerodynamics generate thrust vectors

which then affect the equations of motion at the rigid

body. In light of this, a layered hierarchical control

scheme is proposed. Figure 2 shows the various layers

in such a control scheme. The innermost component

contains the helicopter and sensor dynamics, representing the target system to be controlled. A level

up from the dynamics is the stabilizing/height controllers. This layer is responsible for maintaining the

stability of the aircraft (i.e. it will try to keep the helicopter in the air). This layer will be implemented

as a tight control loop as it affects the stability of

the whole system. The task of maintaining the helicopter in a certain location in 3-dimensional space

is the responsibility of the path control. The path

controller will take in a series of locations (forming

path) and will try to bring the helicopter to these locations. It is almost impossible to keep the helicopter

hovering at the exact same spot. Therefore, the path

controller should be able to recognize when the helicopter is close enough to the setpoint and prevent

excessive switching of control signals. A fuzzy system is then a suitable candidate for implementing a

path controller. Finally, the uppermost layer is the

navigation manager whose main purpose is to decide

where the helicopter should go next. It makes navigation decision based on the goal or objective that the

helicopter is trying achieve in the current mission. Because of the requirement to make inference on where

to go next based on the helicopters current status, an

intelligent controller/decision network, is particularly

suitable for implementing the navigation manager.

Since the actual interaction between the pitch angles (both the collective and cyclic) and the resulting

thrusts are quite complex, it is often assumed that

the thrust (both the magnitude and direction) can be

measured and controlled directly [4]. With this assumption, then the helicopter can be modelled as a

rigid body having some external forces (the net thrust

vectors) acting on it (see next subsection).

Once the net thrusts have been identified (either by

aerodynamic analysis or by assumption), the equations of motion for the rigid body dynamics of the

helicopter can be obtained by applying Newtons and

Eulers equations:

J L

(71

the centre of gravity, 1 is the inertia matrix, v is the

linear velocity of the helicopter, and w is the angular

velocity.

A model of the helicopter caribe defined with the equations of motion described in (1). The selected state

variables are:

X=[x y z x

i 4, 0

?j!l

w, wy w,IT

The attitude stabilizing controller maintains tight control of the aircraft attitude angles and acts to quickly

regulate them to zero just after manouevres. It is

based on the Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR) principle [15] and is designed to vary with the attitude of

the helicopter. It is depicted in the dotted region of

Figure 5.

In order to apply this technique, the aircraft dynamics are initially linearized about the hover condition so that a state space form may be written as

helicopter.

Using this state vector, the helicopter model is

given by [l],[4]:

1-l(.(U) - w x Zw)

X ( t ) = A ( t ) X ( t ) B(t)U(t)

P(t) = C(t>X(t)

(3)

(4)

and output vectors at time instant t.

In LQR design, the goal is to compute an optimal feedback gain matrix (Klqp.

in Figure 5) such that

defining the system input as

where P = [x y TI.

is the position vector, v = P is

is the Euler angles,

the velocity vector, 0 = [4 0

Z is the inertia matrix, R is the rotation matrix, and

Q is the mapping between the angular velocity and the

Euler angle derivatives [I]. The output ,B = [P @IT.

+IT

= -KlqTX

105

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( 5)

..

net PI effect on the height. With this configuration

and maintaining the assumption that the system is

nominally linear at each timing instant , the following

state-space description applies (see [16] p.244);

..

I:[

:..........................................

P

Figure 5: Attitude stabilizing/tracking control system

[ C 01[:,]

-c

BK

0

][z]+[:]..

6. SIMULATION RESULTS AND

Lo

CO

( X ( t ) Q X ( t )+ u ( t )T R u ( t ) )

DISCUSSIONS

The simulation results presented in this section are

preliminary and were obtained for a particular value

of KlqT computed around hover with P = 1.332 and

I = 0.262. Subsequent work will present more results

showing the effectiveness of varying the controller with

the attitude angles.

In the first simulation, the helicopter is assumed to

be operating a t a height of 30m above the ground. It is

allowed to descend from this position in order to see if

the attitude stabilizing controller will facilitate stable

landing (ground effects are not modelled). The performance is depicted in Figures 6 and 7. The result shows

that the attitude angles are rapidly regulated while the

aircraft executes a stable landing operation. The similarity in the characteristics of x and y positions may

be due to coupling.

matrices used to weight the state and the input respectively. Q is selected and tuned to penalize the

attitude angles most while R is taken be an identity

matrix of dimension 4. With this selection, the attitude angles tend to converge rapidly to zero thereby

causing other states to converge too (not necessarily

to zero). The optimal feedback gain is computed from

Klqr = R-'BTP

where P satisfies the standard Riccati equation [15]

A T P +- P A - PBR-'BTP

by feeding back other positions) so that forward and

=

A-BK

+CTQC = 0

and P = PT 2 0.

Define

f i ( t )= [4(4W I T .

Rather than compute new values for the matrices in (4)

and Klqr at each instant, the time-varying controller

is designed to change only when

llfi(t)llm > E

(6)

the body roll and pitch angles are allowed to change

before control action is activated. Three main assumptions necessary for this approach to be successful are

i) all the states of the helicopter are available for feedback; ii) at any instant, the dynamics of the helicopter

can (nominally) be represented by a linear system to

which the optimal control law (5) applies and iii) the

finite time required for the control (5) to stabilize the

helicopter a t the operating region is not unduly large.

30m (position)

Next, a typical linguistic command to the path

layer is simulated. The instructions are its follows

climb to 20m + hold this altitude for 15s + climb

to 4Om -+ hold this altitude for about 1 min + return

to the ground. This is depicted in Figures 8 and 9.

Observe the increase in yaw angle (up to 7 de& during initial climb, this (and roll/pitch effects) are all

brought under control by the inner loop controller.

5. HEIGHT CONTROL

This is the outer loop of the control system and is

implemented as a PI tracking controller. The equilibrium state of (4) and (5) is X = 0. Therefore z = 0.

106

30m (Euler angles)

I

control design for a n autonomous helicopter. Proc. 37th IEEE

Conf. Decision and Control, pages 3653-3658, December 1998.

[3] J . Morris, M. van Nieuwstadt and P. Bendotti. Identification

and control of a model helicopter in hover. PTOC.

American

control conference, pages 1238-1242, 1994.

[4] R. Mahony, T. Hamel and A. Dzul. Hover control via lyapunov

control for a n autonomous helicopter. Proc. 38th .IEEE Cont.

on Decision and Control, pages 3490-3495, December 1999.

[5] R.W. Prouty. Helicopter performance, stability tmd control.

Krieger Publishing Co., 1986.

simulation math model. Technical Report NASA Contractor

Report 177476,NASA Aeroflightdynamics Directorate, Moffett

Field, CA 94035,April 1988.

[7] Y. Cao. A new inverse solution technique for studying helicopter maneuvering flight. Journal of the American Helicopter

Society, 45(1):43-53, January 2000.

area of autonomous helicopter guidance and control

have been presented. A control structure made of

three functional layers has been discussed with more

emphasis on the dynamics and control of the helicopter. An optimal controller which varies with significant changes in the attitude has been suggested with

preliminary simulation results. It is clear however that

some analyses will be required to study the robustness and switching properties of the control scheme

if it must be of any use. Results from simulations

alone do not necessarily lead to a definitive conclusion regarding these properties. It is also desirable

to compare this method with some nonlinear control

schemes proposed for the same applicatip (but based

on reduced-order models of the helicopter) in terms of

computational overhead and suitability for real-world

applications. Most importantly, we need t o know what

kind of structures would be required for multi-vehicle

control and coordination. These and other closely related areas will be the subject of continuing research

effort.

[8] M. Sugeno, I. Hirano, S. Nakamura and S . Kotsu. Development of a n intelligent unmanned helicopter. IEEE International conf. fuzzy systems, pages 33-34, 1995.

[9] T.Y. Jiang, J.V.R.Prasad, and A.J. Calise. Adaptive fuzzy

logic flight controllers for rotorcraft. Proc. AIAA Guidance,

Navigation and Control conf., pages 1-8, July 1996.

helicopter. Proc. 37th IEEE Conf. on Decision iind Control,

pages 3641-3646, December 1998.

[ll] J . W. Fletcher.

A model structure for identification of linear models of the uh-60 helicopter in hover .md forward

flight. Technical Report 110362, NASA Technical Memorandum, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035,

August 1995.

[12] E.H.Lee, H. Shim, H. Park and K.I. Lee. Design of hovering attitude controller for a model helicopter. Proc. Soc. of

Instrument and Control Engineers, pages 1385-:L389,August

1993.

[13] T.J. Koo, F. Hoffmann, H. Shim, B. Sinopoli and S. Sastry.

Hybrid control of an autonomous helicopter. Proc. IFAC workshop on motion control, Grenoble, France, September 1998.

[14] University of waterloo aerial robotics group (warp).

http://www.ece.uwaterloo.ca/-warg. Last accessed: March 8,

2000.

[15] B. D. 0.Anderson and J . B. Moore.

Prentice-Hall, 1989.

REFERENCES

Optimal Control.

[16] C-T Chen. Linear system theory and design (3rd ed.). Oxford

University Press, London, U.K., 1999.

[l] T.J. Koo and S. Sastry. Output tracking control design of a he-

IEEE Conf. Decision a n d Control, pages 3635-3640, December 1998.

107

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