Multi-objective mission flight planning in civil unmanned aerial systems

Wu, Paul Pao-Yen (2009) Multi-objective mission flight planning in civil unmanned aerial systems. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are emerging as an ideal platform for a wide range of civil applications such as disaster monitoring, atmospheric observation and outback delivery. However, the operation of UAVs is currently restricted to specially segregated regions of airspace outside of the National Airspace System (NAS). Mission Flight Planning (MFP) is an integral part of UAV operation that addresses some of the requirements (such as safety and the rules of the air) of integrating UAVs in the NAS. Automated MFP is a key enabler for a number of UAV operating scenarios as it aids in increasing the level of onboard autonomy. For example, onboard MFP is required to ensure continued conformance with the NAS integration requirements when there is an outage in the communications link. MFP is a motion planning task concerned with finding a path between a designated start waypoint and goal waypoint. This path is described with a sequence of 4 Dimensional (4D) waypoints (three spatial and one time dimension) or equivalently with a sequence of trajectory segments (or tracks). It is necessary to consider the time dimension as the UAV operates in a dynamic environment. Existing methods for generic motion planning, UAV motion planning and general vehicle motion planning cannot adequately address the requirements of MFP. The flight plan needs to optimise for multiple decision objectives including mission safety objectives, the rules of the air and mission efficiency objectives. Online (in-flight) replanning capability is needed as the UAV operates in a large, dynamic and uncertain outdoor environment. This thesis derives a multi-objective 4D search algorithm entitled Multi- Step A* (MSA) based on the seminal A search algorithm. MSA* is proven to find the optimal (least cost) path given a variable successor operator (which enables arbitrary track angle and track velocity resolution). Furthermore, it is shown to be of comparable complexity to multi-objective, vector neighbourhood based A* (Vector A, an extension of A). A variable successor operator enables the imposition of a multi-resolution lattice structure on the search space (which results in fewer search nodes). Unlike cell decomposition based methods, soundness is guaranteed with multi-resolution MSA. MSA is demonstrated through Monte Carlo simulations to be computationally efficient. It is shown that multi-resolution, lattice based MSA* finds paths of equivalent cost (less than 0.5% difference) to Vector A* (the benchmark) in a third of the computation time (on average). This is the first contribution of the research. The second contribution is the discovery of the additive consistency property for planning with multiple decision objectives. Additive consistency ensures that the planner is not biased (which results in a suboptimal path) by ensuring that the cost of traversing a track using one step equals that of traversing the same track using multiple steps. MSA* mitigates uncertainty through online replanning, Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) and tolerance. Each trajectory segment is modeled with a cell sequence that completely encloses the trajectory segment. The tolerance, measured as the minimum distance between the track and cell boundaries, is the third major contribution. Even though MSA* is demonstrated for UAV MFP, it is extensible to other 4D vehicle motion planning applications. Finally, the research proposes a self-scheduling replanning architecture for MFP. This architecture replicates the decision strategies of human experts to meet the time constraints of online replanning. Based on a feedback loop, the proposed architecture switches between fast, near-optimal planning and optimal planning to minimise the need for hold manoeuvres. The derived MFP framework is original and shown, through extensive verification and validation, to satisfy the requirements of UAV MFP. As MFP is an enabling factor for operation of UAVs in the NAS, the presented work is both original and significant.

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ID Code: 31322
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Campbell, Duncan, Walker, Rodney, & Merz, Torsten
Keywords: path planning, heuristic algorithms, multi-objective decision making, multiobjective optimisation, expert systems, unmanned aerial vehicles
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Past > Schools > School of Engineering Systems
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 15 Mar 2010 04:44
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:55

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