Laboratory Testbed for Formation Control of Groups of Autonomous Helicopters

J. Zhao and F. Fahimi (Canada)


Laboratory Testbed, Sliding Mode Control, Formation Control, Autonomous Helicopter.


In order to control multiple autonomous helicopters in three-dimensional (3D) desired formations, decentralized leader-follower formation controllers had been previously designed by our team. These controllers directly control the vectorial distance of a follower with respect to one or two leaders. The next step is applying the controller to real helicopters. However, any errors in the real-time controller code can be disastrous for an unstable flying machine such as a helicopter. A laboratory testbed is designed to allow the initial verification of the formation controller code for a hover scenario. The helicopter on the testbed is a fol lower in the formation control scheme. The motion of the hovering leader(s) of the test helicopter are simulated in the software. The testbed allows a free 6-DOF motion of the test helicopter in a limited range. It can stop the heli copter smoothly if the helicopter moves out of the desig nated range. The hypothesis is that the controller designed based on the dynamics of the helicopter can still stabilize the helicopter in hover without any structural modification, even though the helicopter is attached to the testbed, pro vided that the equivalent mass of the helicopter-testbed sys tem is used for control calculations. This hypothesis is suc cessfully tried in this paper.

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