Cooperative Control of Miniature Air Vehicles

Derek R. Nelson, Brigham Young University


Cooperative control for miniature air vehicles (MAVs) is currently a highly researched topic. There are many application for which MAVs are well suited, including fire monitoring, surveillance and reconaissance, and search and rescue missions. All of these applications can be carried out more effictively by a team of MAVs than by a single vehicle. As technologies for microcontrollers and small sensors have improved so have the capabilities of MAVs. This improvement in MAV performance abilities increases the possibility for cooperative missions. The focus of this research was on cooperative timing missions. The issues faced when dealing with multi-MAV flight include information transfer, real time path planning, and maintenance of a fleet of flight-worthy MAVs. Additional challenges associated with timing missions include path following and velocity control. Two timing scenarios were studied and both of these scenarios were flight tested. The first scenario was a sequenced arrival of the MAVs over a target at a predetermined fly-through heading. The second scenario was a simultaneous arrival of the team ofMAVs over a known target location. The ideas of coordination functions and coordination variables have been employed to achieve coordination. Experimental results verify the feasibility of real time coperative control for a team of MAVs. Initial cooperative timing tests revealed the need for more accurate path following. Accordingly, a new method for path following using vector fields was developed. A vector field of desired ground track headings is calculated and commanded ground track headings are calculated such that ground track heading error and lateral following error decay asymptotically even in the presence of constant wind disturbances. The utilization of ground track heading and ground speed in the path following control, in combination with the vector field methods is what makes this zero-error following possible. Methods for following straight lines and orbits as well as combinations of the lines and circular arcs are presented. The assertions that minimal following errors result when using these methods have been verified experimentally.