There are two traditional aircraft categories: fixed-wing which have a long endurance and a high cruise airspeed and rotorcraft which can take-off and land vertically. The tailsitter is a type of aircraft that has the strengths of both platforms, with no additional mechanical complexity, because it takes off and lands vertically on its tail and can transition the entire aircraft horizontally into high-speed flight. In this dissertation, we develop the entire control system for a tailsitter with a ducted fan. The standard method to compute the quaternion-based attitude error does not generate ideal trajectories for a hovering tailsitter for some situations. In addition, the only approach in the literature to mitigate this breaks down for large attitude errors. We develop an alternative quaternion-based error method which generates better trajectories than the standard approach and can handle large errors. We also derive a hybrid backstepping controller with almost global asymptotic stability based on this error method. Many common altitude and airspeed control schemes for a fixed-wing airplane assume that the altitude and airspeed dynamics are decoupled which leads to errors. The Total Energy Control System (TECS) is an approach that controls the altitude and airspeed by manipulating the total energy rate and energy distribution rate, of the aircraft, in a manner which accounts for the dynamic coupling. In this dissertation, a nonlinear controller, which can handle inaccurate thrust and drag models, based on the TECS principles is derived. Simulation results show that the nonlinear controller has better performance than the standard PI TECS control schemes. Most constant altitude transitions are accomplished by generating an optimal trajectory, and potentially actuator inputs, based on a high fidelity model of the aircraft. While there are several approaches to mitigate the effects of modeling errors, these do not fully remove the accurate model requirement. In this dissertation, we develop two different approaches that can achieve near constant altitude transitions for some types of aircraft. The first method, based on multiple LQR controllers, requires a high fidelity model of the aircraft. However, the second method, based on the energy along the body axes, requires almost no aerodynamic information.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





attitude control, attitude error, guidance and control, tailsitter, TECS, VTOL