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Proceedings of the 42nd IEEE

Conference an k i s i a n and Control

Maui, Hawaii USA,December 2003 TuP08-3
Nonlinear Path Following with Applications to the Control of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

L. Lapierre, D. Soetanto, A. Pascoal

Institute for Systems and Robotics and
Dept. Electrical Engineering and Computers
Instituto Superior Tkcnico
AV. Rovisco Pais, 1, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal
E-mail: {lpl, didik, antonio}

Abslracl-This paper derives a control law to steer the It is important to remark that even though the problem of
dynamic model of an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) path following is essentially solved for land vehicles, the
along a desired path. The methodology adopted for path same does not hold true for marine craft. This is due to the
following deals explicitly with vehicle dynamics. Furthermore, it
overcomes stringent initial condition constraintsthat are present fact that dynamics play a key role in the motion of the latter,
in a number of path follo-ing control strategies described in thus requiring the development of methodologies for accurate
the literature. Controller design builds on Lypaonov theory path following that take explicitly into account the presence
and backstepping techniques. The multing nonlinear feedback of possibly complex, nonlinear hydrodynamic terms. This is
control law yields convergence of the path follo-ing error tra- in striking contrast with land vehicles, where methodologies
jectories to zero. Simulation results illustrate the performance
of the control system proposed. that build on pure vehicle kinematics are often adequate for
I. INTRODUCTION The present paper builds on previous results obtained in
Fast paced progresses in marine robotics are steadily [4], [5], where the work of [SI, [9] was extended to deal with
affording scientists advanced tools for ocean exploration and the control of marine vehicles in three dimensional space and
exploitation. However, much work remains to be done before to address explicitly the presence of non-negligible marine
marine robots can roam the oceans freely, acquiring scientific vehicle dynamics. The methodology for path following pro-
data at the temporal and spatial scales that are naturally posed in [5] can be easily understood by recalling that the
imposed by the phenomena under study. To meet these goals, total velocity vector of an AUV is not necessarily aligned
robots must be equipped with systems to steer them accu- with the vehicles main axis, as in the case of wheeled robots
rately and reliably in the harsh marine environment. For this ( A W s sideslip). However, by drawing a simple analogy
reason, there has been over the last few years considerable between the problems of path following for wheeled robots
interest in the development of advanced methods for marine and A W s , the latter can be cast as the equivalent problem of
vehicle motion control. Namely, point stabilization, trajectory aligning the total AUV velocity vector with the tangent to the
tracking, and path following control. path by manipulating the vehicles yaw rate. It is important to
Point stabilization refers to the problem of steering a vehi- remark that in spite of its broader scope of applications, the
cle to a final target point, with a desired orientation. Trajec- results in [51 inherit the major shortcoming already present
tory tracking requires a vehicle to track a time-parameterized in the path following control strategy for wheeled robots
reference curve. Finally, path following control aims at described for example in [9] : the initial position of the
forcing a vehicle to converge to and follow a desired spatial vehicle is restricted to lie inside a tube around the path,
path, without any temporal specifications. The latter objective the radius of which must be snialler than the sniallest radius
occurs for example when it is required that an AUV examine of curvature that is present in that path.
an area by performing a lawn mowing maneuver along The work reported in this paper lifts this restriction
desired tracks with great accuracy, at speeds determined entirely. This is done by controlling explicitly the rate of
by a scientific end-user. The underlying assumption in path progression of a virtual target to be tracked along the path,
following control is that the vehicles forward speed tracks a thus bypassing the problems that arise when the position
desired speed profile, while the controller acts on the vehi- of the virtual target is simply defined by the projection of
cles orientation to drive it to the path. Typically, smoother the actual vehicle on that path. See [ l l ] where a similar
convergence to a path is achieved when path following technique was first proposed for wheeled robots. This design
strategies are used instead of trajectory tracking control laws, procedure effectively creates an extra degree of freedom that
and the control signals are less likely pushed to saturation. can then be explored to avoid the .singularities that occur
This paper proposes a new methodology for the design when the distance to path is not well defined (this occurs
of path following systems for AUVs. The reader is referred for example when the vehicle is located exactly at the center
to [8], [9] and the references therein for related ground of curvature of a circular path). Controller design starts at
breaking work in the field of land robots, where powerful a kinematic level and evolves to a dynamic setting using
nonlinear path following control structures were introduced. backstepping techniques. The resulting control strategy yields

0-7803-7924-1103/$17.00 02003 IEEE 1256

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global convergence of the actual path of the vehicle to the where U and U are the longitudinal (surge) and transverse
desired path. (sway) velocities, respectively.
As remarked in 1111, the idea of exploring the extra With this notation, the kinematic equations of the AUV
degree of freedom that comes from controlling the motion can he written as
of a virtual target along a path seems to have appeared X = UCOS($B)- vsin($B)
for the first time in [l] for the control of wheeled robots. y = us in($.^) + a c o s ( + ~ ) (1)
This idea was later extended to the control of marine craft $JB = r
in [ 2 ] . However. none of these references addresses the
issues of vehicle dynamics. Furthermore, the methodologies where T is the vehicle's angular speed (yaw rate). Assuming
adopted in [l], [2] for control system design build on an U is never equal to zero, define the sideslip angle 0 =
entirely different technique that requires the introduction arctan(v/a) and consider the reference frame {W)that is
of a nonsingular transformation in the original error space. obtained from { B )by rotating it around the Z B axis through
Interestingly enough, a very recent publication explores the angle p in the positive direction . The above equations can
same concept of a virtual target for path following of wheeled then be re-written to yield
robots 131. X = tJtCOS($Mr)
The paper is organized as follows. Section I1 formulates Y = ut sin(+w) (2)
the problem of path following control for an A W . Section $w=r+p
I11 develops a nonlinear path following control law that
deals explicilty with vehicle dynamics. The performance of
where $Jw7 = +B p and ut is the x w component of the
the control system proposed in illustrated in simulation in
tot? vehicle velocity expressed in {W).Clearly, ut = (U' +
U ' ) 12. In the aircraft literature { W }is called the wind frame
Section IV. Finally, Section V contains the conclusions and
and will henceforth be called the flow frame. Notice how
describes some problems that warrant research.
the choice of a new frame simplified the first two kinematic
11. PROBLEM FORMULATION equations and brought out their similarities with those of a
wheeled robot. See 191, [ill.
This section introduces the simplified dynamic model of
Neglecting the equations in heave, roll, and pitch the
an AUV in the horizontal plane and provides a rigorous simplified equations for surge, sway and yaw can be written
formulation of the problem of steering it along a desired
path. as [61, U01
F = m,u +d,
The type of AUV considered in this paper is equipped 0 = m,it m,,ur + d, + (3)
with two identical hack thrusters mounted symetrically with l- = m,? d, +
respect to its longitudinal axis. Thus, the vehicle is un-
deractuated since it lacks a lateral thruster. The common where
and differential modes of the thrusters generate a force F mu = m-XC d, = -X =,U2 - X""W2
along the vehicle's longitudinal axis and a torque r about its m, = m-Y, d, = -Y,uu - Y"l"l"l"/
vertical axis, respectively. In this study, a full dynamic model m, = I, - N+ d, = -N,,uu - N,~&J
of the INFANTE AUV operated by the Institute for Systems mu? = m - Y , -Nrur
and Robotics (ISR) of Lisbon will be used, see Table I . It is The symbols m and I , denote the mass and moment of
assumed that only the hack thrusters are used to maneuver inertia of the AUV respectively, X(.i,Y(.},and N{.) are
in the horizontal plane. classical hydrodynamic derivatives, and [ F I?]= defines the
A. Vehicle Modeling. Kinematics and Dynamics. input vector of force and torque that are applied to the AUV.
The model presented in this paper is based on the model of
The following notation will he used in the sequel. The the INFANTE A W described in [lo], to which the reader
symbol { A } := { Z A , ya, Z A } denotes a reference frame is referred for complete details.
with origin OA and unit vectors Z A , ~ A ,and ZA. Given
two reference frames { A } and { B ) , :R is the rotation B. Path Following. Error Coordinates.
matrix from { B } to { A } . Following standard practice, the The solution to the problem of path following proposed
general kinematic and dynamics equations of a vehicle can here builds on the following intuitive explanation [9], [ 5 ]
be developed using a global coordinate frame { U } and a (see Figure 1): a simple path following controller should
body-fixed coordinate frame { B } ,as depicted in Figure 1. compute i) the distance between the vehicle's center of mass
Let Q denote the center of mass of the vehicle, which we Q and the closest point P on the path and ii) the angle
assume is coincident with OB, and let q = [z, y, OIT he the between the vehicle's total velocity vector wt and the tangent
position of Q in { U ) . Further let +rg denote the yaw angle to the path at P , and reduce both to zero. This motivates
that parametrizes the rotation matrix from { B } to { U } . Let the development of the "kinematic" model of the vehicle in
W I = [ U , u, 0IT he the velocity of Q in { U } expressed in { B } , terms of a Serret-Frenet frame {F} that moves along the


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It is also straightfomard to compute the velocity of Q in
{U} as
(s),= (f),+R-'($) F +R-'(wFx~)

where d is the vector from P to Q. Multiplying the above

equation on the left by R gives the velocity of Q in {I}
expressed in {F} as

R (g), = ($)F + (g) F +WF x d (5)

Using the relations

Fig. I . Path Following: Reference Frames ($)"= [a] 1

path; {F} plays the role of the body axis of a "virtual target
vehicle" that should he tracked by the "real vehicle". Using
($)F= [ ;] i

this set-up, the abovementioned distance and angle become

the coordinates of the ermr space where the control problem
is formulated and solved. In this paper, however, a Frenet
frame {F} that moves along the path to be followed is used
with a significant difference: the Frener frame is not attached
to the point on the path that is closest to the vehicle.,Instead,
the origin OF = P of {F} along the path is made to evolve
according to a conveniently defined control law, effectively
yielding an extra controller design parameter. As will be seen, equation (5) can be rewritten as

[] [
this seemingly simple procedure is instrumental in lifting the
stringent initial condition constraints that are present in the
work of [9] for path following of wheeled robots and in that
of [51 for marine vehicles. The notation that follows is by
now standard.
Consider Figure 1, where P is an arbitrary point on the
Solving for
R =

SI and y1 yields
i ( 1- C&)Yl)
y 1 +c,(s)Ss~

path to be followed. Associated with P, consider the cor-
responding Serret-Frenet frame {F}. The signed curvilinear
abscissa of P along the path is denoted s. Clearly, Q can
either be expressed as q = [z, y, 0IT in {U} or as [SI, y1, 0IT
in {F}. Stated equivalently, Q can be given in ( q y ) or
(SI,y1) coordinates. Let Finally, replacing the top two equations of (2) in (6) and

E= [ cos$^
cosGF 0
sin$F 0

introducing the variable $ = ?,6w- $JF gives the "kinematic"
model of the A W in (s, y) coordinates as
s1 = - B ( 1 - C&) +
be the rotation matrix from {U} to {F}, parameterized
yl = -c&l +
ut sin@ (7)
$ = W W - c,B
locally by the angle @ F . Define W F = +F. Then,
WF= 4 F = C&)S
where WI.V = ?i),y = r p. +
(4) At this point it is important to notice that in [5] and [91
CdS) = gc(s)j.
s1 = 0 for all t, since the location of point P is defined
where ce(s) and (gc(s) = denote the path curvature by the projection of Q on the path, assuming the projection
and its derivative, respectively. The velocity of P in {U} can is well defined. One is then forced to solve for S in the
he expressed in {F} to yield equation above. However, by doing so 1 - c,yl appears in
the denominator, thus creating a singularity at y1 = As 2.
a result, the control laws derived in [9] and [5] require that
the initial position of Q be restricted to a tube around the


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path, the radius of which must he less than -, where limt-, vt(t) is different fnmi zem. S u p p m the path to be
c,,,,, denoted the maximum curvature of the path. Clearly, fidlowed is parametrized by its cunilinear abscissa s arid
this constraint is very conservative since the occurrence of a assume that for each s the variables dJ, SI, y 1 and
~ cc are
large c,,,,, in just a small section of the path will impose a well defined. Then the kinematic conrml law
rather strict constraint on the initial vehicles position, even
if it happens to start in a region that is far away from the
problematic section. By making s1 not necessarily equal to
zero, a virtual target that is not coincident with the projection
(where kl and k2 are arbitrary positise conctants) drives y1.
of the vehicle on the path is created, thus introducing an
SI. and $ asymptofically to zero.
extra degree of freedom for controller design. By specifying
how fast the newly defined target moves, the occurrence of
a singularity at y1 = $ is removed. Indication of Proof Consider the candidate Lyapunov
function VI = h($
- 6). The control law
C. Problem Formulation . .
With the above notation, the problem under study can be ~ = 6 - P - k1(11,-6)+cc(s)S
formulated as follows: makes VI = -kl(O - 6) 5 0. Since VI is positive and
Consider the AUV model with kinematic and dynamic monotonically decreasing function, limt,, VI ( t ) is well
equations given b)) ( I ) and (3), respectively Given a path defined. Moreover, since VI is uniformly continuous, an,
to be followed and a desired pnifile u d ( t ) > u,in > 0 for application of,Barbalats lemma allows for the conclusion
the surge speed U , derive feedback control laws for the force that limt,, V, = 0. A simple argument shows that with
F , torque I?, and rate of evolution S qfthe curvilinear abcissa the control laws proposed the variables y ~ ? s l and , d~ are
s of the virtual target point P along the path so tlwt y1. hounded and approach the set E defined by V, = 0. Examine
SI, $, and U - u d tend to zem asyntptotically. now the motion of the feedback control system restricted
111. NONLINEAR PATH FOLLOWING to E. To do this, consider the candidate Lyapunov function
CONTROLLER DESIGN candidate V , = $(s: +
y:) and compute its derivative
VE = ylut sinJ-K.& 5 0. Since VE is bounded, Barbalats
This section introduces a nonlinear closed loop control law
lemma allows for the conclusion that limt-, V , = 0. This
to steer the dynamic model of an AUV described by (1)-(3)
in turn implies that all trajectories in E satisfy 1imf-- y1 =
along a desired path. Controller design builds on previous
0 and limt4, SI = 0. An argument of continuity can now
work by [5] and [9] on path following control and relies
be used to conclude the proof of the theorem.
heavily on backstepping techniques. The reader will find in
[7] a lucid exposition of interesting theoretical and practical B. The Dynamic controller
issues involved in backstepping. Controller design is done
The above feedback control law applies to the kinematic
in two steps. The first step yields a kinematic controller
model of the A W only. However, using backstepping tech-
by adopting the yaw rate T = @B as a virtual control
niques this control law can be extended to deal with the
input and assuming that the actual surge speed equals the
vehicle dynamics. In the kinematic design the total velocity
desired speed u d ( t ) . The second step addresses the vehicle
ut(t) of the vehicle was left free but implicitly dependent on
dynamics, builds on the kinematic controller derived, and
a desired profile.ud(t) for surge speed u(t). In the dynamic
uses backstepping techniques to obtain control laws for the
design the variable U will be brought explicitly into the
input variables F and I?.
picture and a control law will he derived so that u ( t )- u d ( t )
A. Controller Design using the Kinematic Model tends to zero. Notice also that the robots angular speed r
This section derives a kinematic controller for the AUV. was assumed to be a control input. This assumption is lifted
As in [9], we let by taking into account the vehicle dynamics. The following
result holds.
Proposition 2: Consider the kinematic and dynamic
models of an AUV described in ( I ) and (3) respectiwly,
be a desired approach angle parameterized by k,j > 0 and and rhe corresponding path fiillowing ermr model in (7).
0< < T / Z , satisfying ylut6(y1,ut) I 0 fur all y1 and Let the appmach angle 6( y1, u t ) be defined as in (8)and let
ut. The approach angle is instrumental in shaping transient a desired speed pmfle u d ( t ) for u(t)be given. Assume that
maneuven during the path approach phase. u d ( t ) is a G function and tlwt limt-m u d ( t ) is different
Proposition 1: Consider the kinematic model of an AUV from zero. Suppose the path to be followed is paranietrized
described in ( I ) and the corresponding path following error by its curvilinear abscissa s and assume rhut for each s the
model (7). Let the appmach angle 6(yl, u t ) be dejined as variables 8, SI, yl,and c, %
are well defined. Then the
in (8). Assume the total velociry of the vehicle is such that dynamic contnil law


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a, = 8 - j - (kl+ k3)($ - 8)
- ( k 5 + k 1 k 3 ) ( $ - 6 ) + c c S + %i,
k l through k5 are arbitrury positive gains, and d, and d,
are cunis .fhydrodynamic coeficienrs, drives y1, SI, and $
asynptorically to zero.

Indication of Proof Define the virtual control law for T

(desired behaviour of r in (9)) as
. .
and let e = T - C be the difference between actual and desired
values of T. Set T = z C and consider the total candidate
Lyapunov function

v,= kSV, + 21 , + -(u

- Ud), (11)
with k5 positive. Tedious but straightfonvard computations
will show that with the control law proposed
Vz = - k i k s ( $ - 6)' - k3ez
-kq(U - ud)' 50 -'

The proof that all relevant state variables go to zero follows

from successive applications of Barbalat's lemma.
Note. The dynamic control law in (10) requires the com-
putation of a.
Since this variable cannot be measured in
practice, one must resort to the dynamic model of the A W
to compute it. Using simple algebraic manipulations it can
be shown that the problem of computing fi is indeed well
posed because the vehicle is stem dominant.
This section illustrates the performance of the path follow-
ing control law derived in simulation. Table I summarizes
the key parameters of the AUV model used. This is a simple
modification of the Infante A W model described in [IO] to
account for the fact that only thrusters are used to maneuver
in the horizontal plane.
The reference and actual robot paths are shown in the top
diagram of Figure 2. The desired surge speed U d ( t ) was set
to lms-'. The controller design parameters are displayed in
Table I1
Figure 2 shows the results of the simulation. The top
diagram shows the envelope defined by the initial condition
constraint imposed in [9]. Notice how the coordinate sl and
y1 tend to zero asymptotically. This is equivalent to stating
that: i) the position of the virtual target (origin of frame
{ F } ( s )along the path) approaches the projection of the A W
on that path, and ii) the lateral distance of the AUV to the
path is driven to zero. Notice also that the actual surge speed
u ( t ) converges to u d = 1ms-'.

Fig. 2. Simulation ~ S U I I S


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This work was supported by the Portuguese FCT POSI
. . . Programme under framework QCA I11 and by projects
MAROV of the FCT and MAYA of the A d . The first author
benefited from a grant of the EC, under project FREESUB.
The second author was partially supported by a post doctoral
grant from the FCT.
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[21 M. Aicardi, G. Casalino, G. Indiveri, P. Aguiar,
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[31 del Rio, F. et al., A New Method for Tracking Mem-
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Decision and Conrml, Hawai, 2003.


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