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Optimization Based Tuning of Autopilot Gains for a Fixed Wing UAV

Authors: Mansoor Ahsan, Khalid Rafique, Farrukh Mazhar


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have gained tremendous importance, in both Military and Civil, during first decade of this century. In a UAV, onboard computer (autopilot) autonomously controls the flight and navigation of the aircraft. Based on the aircraft role and flight envelope, basic to complex and sophisticated controllers are used to stabilize the aircraft flight parameters. These controllers constitute the autopilot system for UAVs. The autopilot systems, most commonly, provide lateral and longitudinal control through Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) controllers or Phase-lead or Lag Compensators. Various techniques are commonly used to ‘tune’ gains of these controllers. Some techniques used are, in-flight step-by-step tuning, software-in-loop or hardware-in-loop tuning methods. Subsequently, numerous in-flight tests are required to actually ‘fine-tune’ these gains. However, an optimization-based tuning of these PID controllers or compensators, as presented in this paper, can greatly minimize the requirement of in-flight ‘tuning’ and substantially reduce the risks and cost involved in flight-testing.

Keywords: Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), autopilot, autonomous controls, PID controler gains tuning, optimization.

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