Autonomous flight of a model aircraft

Peddle, Iain K. (2005-03)

Thesis (MScEng (Electrical and Electronic Engineering))--Stellenbosch University, 2005.


The successful development of a conventional flight autopilot for a model aircraft is presented. All aspects of the autopilot design are considered, from modeling to flight tests. A mathematical aircraft model, as a function of the aircraft’s physical parameters alone, is presented. A controller architecture capable of regulating the motion variables required for conventional flight using only low cost, off-the-shelf sensors is developed. The controller design complements the aircraft model development technique used, by reducing the sensitivity of the controller performance to the model accuracy. The avionics and ground station design is presented. The avionics includes a generic Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). The total avionics cost is only R5000. Results from three days of flight tests demonstrate the autopilot’s success. Its rapid success can largely be attributed to the extensive simulations of the entire autopilot in the two non-linear simulators developed.

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