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Title: Design and application of advanced disturbance rejection control for small fixed-wing UAVs
Author: Smith, Jean
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2018
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Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have seen continual growth in both research and commercial applications. Attractive features such as their small size, light weight and low cost are a strong driver of this growth. However, these factors also bring about some drawbacks. The light weight and small size means that small UAVs are far more susceptible to performance degradation from factors such as wind gusts. Due to the generally low cost, available sensors are somewhat limited in both quality and available measurements. For example, it is very unlikely that angle of attack is sensed by a small UAV. These aircraft are usually constructed by the end user, so a tangible amount of variation will exist between different aircraft of the same type. Depending on application, additional variation between flights from factors such as battery placement or additional sensors may exist. This makes the application of optimal model based control methods difficult. Research literature on the topic of small UAV control is very rich in regard to high level control, such as path planning in wind. A common assumption in such literature is the existence of a low level control method which is able to track demanded aircraft attitudes to complete a task. Design of such controllers in the presence of significant wind or modelling errors (factors collectively addressed as lumped disturbances herein) is rarely considered. Disturbance Observer Based Control (DOBC) is a means of improving the robustness of a baseline feedback control scheme in the presence of lumped disturbances. The method allows for the rejection of the influence of unmeasurable disturbances much more quickly than traditional integral control, while also enabling recovery of nominal feedback con- trol performance. The separation principle of DOBC allows for the design of a nominal feedback controller, which does not need to be robust against disturbances. A DOBC augmentation can then be applied to ensure this nominal performance is maintained even in the presence of disturbances. This method offers highly attractive properties for control design, and has seen a large rise in popularity in recent years. Current literature on this subject is very often conducted purely in simulation. Ad- ditionally, very advanced versions of DOBC control are now being researched. To make the method attractive to small UAV operators, it would be beneficial if a simple DOBC design could be used to realise the benefits of this method, as it would be more accessible and applicable by many. This thesis investigates the application of a linear state space disturbance observer to low level flight control of a small UAV, along with developments of the method needed to achieve good performance in flight testing. Had this work been conducted purely in simulation, it is likely many of the difficulties encountered would not have been addressed or discovered. This thesis presents four main contributions. An anti-windup method has been devel- oped which is able to alleviate the effect of control saturation on the disturbance observer dynamics. An observer is designed which explicitly considers actuator dynamics. This development was shown to enable faster observer estimation dynamics, yielding better disturbance rejection performance. During initial flight testing, a significant aeroelastic oscillation mode was discovered. This issue was studied in detail theoretically, with a pro- posed solution developed and applied. The solution was able to fully alleviate the effect in flight. Finally, design and development of an over-actuated DOBC method is presented. A method for design of DOBC for over actuated systems was developed and studied. The majority of results in this thesis are demonstrated with flight test data.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: UAV ; Flight control ; Disturbance rejection ; DOBC