towed cable, unmanned aerial vehicle, drogue, optimization, trajectory, wind disturbance


This paper studies trajectory generation for a mothership that tows a drogue using a flexible cable. The contributions of this paper include model validation for the towed cable system described by a lumped mass extensible cable using flight data, and optimal trajectory generation for the towed cable system with tension constraints using model predictive control. The optimization problem is formulated using a combination of the squared error and l1-norm objective functions. Different desired circular trajectories of the towed body are used to calculate optimal trajectories for the towing vehicle subject to performance limits and wind disturbances. Trajectory generation for transitions from straight and level flight into an orbit is also presented. The computational efficiency is demonstrated, which is essential for potential real-time applications. This paper gives a framework for specifying an arbitrary flight path for the towed body by optimizing the action of the towing vehicle subject to constraints.

Original Publication Citation

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, AIAA




Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Chemical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor