Electrically powered vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft could provide a new mode of air transportation of people and cargo that is low-cost, on-demand, and able to reach more areas than is possible with current technology. They have the unique ability to takeoff and land in congested spaces yet efficiently travel long distances which makes them a promising technology for applications such as rapid medical assistance, automated package delivery, or human transportation. This type of aircraft has only recently become a possibility, owing to advancements in battery technology, computing power, and sensor technologies, and thus support for eVTOLs is lacking among high-fidelity graphics simulation software. High-fidelity graphics are important for the goal of fully autonomous eVTOL aircraft in order to accurately simulate vision-based navigation using camera sensors. In this work, we present VTOL-AirSim, an extension of Microsoft AirSim with full integration of a tiltrotor eVTOL aircraft. Built on Unreal Engine, a high-end graphics game engine, it includes photorealistic graphics for simulated camera images and for high-quality presentations. We created the visual components of a fully animated tiltrotor vehicle and a detailed city environment for it to fly in. The tiltrotor can be controlled via motor PWM commands, by overriding its state in the world with the use of an external dynamics simulation, or by using the PX4 Autopilot. We give a tutorial on how to use VTOL-AirSim where we provide examples for each method of control, including scripts for controlling the tiltrotor via a geometric controller and control allocation module developed by others in the BYU MAGICC Lab. We also show how to further develop VTOL-AirSim, and how to add custom aircraft or custom environments so that others may use it in their own research.
College and Department
Electrical and Computer Engineering
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Nielsen, Seth M., "A Visually Realistic Simulator for Autonomous eVTOL Aircraft" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 9340.
UAV, eVTOL, simulator, game engine