Path planning, guidance and control for a UAV forced landing

Eng, Pillar C.S. (2011) Path planning, guidance and control for a UAV forced landing. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


A forced landing is an unscheduled event in flight requiring an emergency landing, and is most commonly attributed to engine failure, failure of avionics or adverse weather. Since the ability to conduct a successful forced landing is the primary indicator for safety in the aviation industry, automating this capability for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will help facilitate their integration into, and subsequent routine operations over civilian airspace. Currently, there is no commercial system available to perform this task; however, a team at the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) is working towards developing such an automated forced landing system. This system, codenamed Flight Guardian, will operate onboard the aircraft and use machine vision for site identification, artificial intelligence for data assessment and evaluation, and path planning, guidance and control techniques to actualize the landing. This thesis focuses on research specific to the third category, and presents the design, testing and evaluation of a Trajectory Generation and Guidance System (TGGS) that navigates the aircraft to land at a chosen site, following an engine failure. Firstly, two algorithms are developed that adapts manned aircraft forced landing techniques to suit the UAV planning problem. Algorithm 1 allows the UAV to select a route (from a library) based on a fixed glide range and the ambient wind conditions, while Algorithm 2 uses a series of adjustable waypoints to cater for changing winds. A comparison of both algorithms in over 200 simulated forced landings found that using Algorithm 2, twice as many landings were within the designated area, with an average lateral miss distance of 200 m at the aimpoint. These results present a baseline for further refinements to the planning algorithms. A significant contribution is seen in the design of the 3-D Dubins Curves planning algorithm, which extends the elementary concepts underlying 2-D Dubins paths to account for powerless flight in three dimensions. This has also resulted in the development of new methods in testing for path traversability, in losing excess altitude, and in the actual path formation to ensure aircraft stability. Simulations using this algorithm have demonstrated lateral and vertical miss distances of under 20 m at the approach point, in wind speeds of up to 9 m/s. This is greater than a tenfold improvement on Algorithm 2 and emulates the performance of manned, powered aircraft. The lateral guidance algorithm originally developed by Park, Deyst, and How (2007) is enhanced to include wind information in the guidance logic. A simple assumption is also made that reduces the complexity of the algorithm in following a circular path, yet without sacrificing performance. Finally, a specific method of supplying the correct turning direction is also used. Simulations have shown that this new algorithm, named the Enhanced Nonlinear Guidance (ENG) algorithm, performs much better in changing winds, with cross-track errors at the approach point within 2 m, compared to over 10 m using Park's algorithm. A fourth contribution is made in designing the Flight Path Following Guidance (FPFG) algorithm, which uses path angle calculations and the MacCready theory to determine the optimal speed to fly in winds. This algorithm also uses proportional integral- derivative (PID) gain schedules to finely tune the tracking accuracies, and has demonstrated in simulation vertical miss distances of under 2 m in changing winds. A fifth contribution is made in designing the Modified Proportional Navigation (MPN) algorithm, which uses principles from proportional navigation and the ENG algorithm, as well as methods specifically its own, to calculate the required pitch to fly. This algorithm is robust to wind changes, and is easily adaptable to any aircraft type. Tracking accuracies obtained with this algorithm are also comparable to those obtained using the FPFG algorithm. For all three preceding guidance algorithms, a novel method utilising the geometric and time relationship between aircraft and path is also employed to ensure that the aircraft is still able to track the desired path to completion in strong winds, while remaining stabilised. Finally, a derived contribution is made in modifying the 3-D Dubins Curves algorithm to suit helicopter flight dynamics. This modification allows a helicopter to autonomously track both stationary and moving targets in flight, and is highly advantageous for applications such as traffic surveillance, police pursuit, security or payload delivery. Each of these achievements serves to enhance the on-board autonomy and safety of a UAV, which in turn will help facilitate the integration of UAVs into civilian airspace for a wider appreciation of the good that they can provide. The automated UAV forced landing planning and guidance strategies presented in this thesis will allow the progression of this technology from the design and developmental stages, through to a prototype system that can demonstrate its effectiveness to the UAV research and operations community.

Impact and interest:

5 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 43898
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Alvarez, Luis Meijas & Campbell, Duncan A.
Keywords: UAV, path planning, forced landing, emergency landing, avionics, automation
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 10 Aug 2011 04:41
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:45

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