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AL-TUNE: A Family of Methods to Effectively Tune UAV Controllers in In-flight Conditions

Abstract

In the paper, a family of novel real-time tuning methods for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) altitude controller in in-flight conditions. The methods allow the controller’s gains to be adapted only on the basis of measurements from a basic sensory equipment and by constructing the optimization cost function in an on-line fashion with virtually no impeding computational complexity; in the case of the altitude controller as in this paper for a hexacopter, altitude measurements were used only. The methods are not dependent on the measurement level, and present the approach in a generally applicable form to tuning arbitrary controllers with low number of parameters. Real-world experimental flights, preceded by simulation tests, have shown which method should behave best in a noisy environment when e.g. wind disturbances act on a UAV while it is in autonomous flight. As the methods can potentially be extended to other control loops or controller types, making this a versatile, rapid-tuning tool. It has been shown that a well-tuned controller using the proposed AL-TUNE scheme outperforms controllers that are tuned just to stabilize the system. AL-TUNE provides a new way of using UAVs in terms of adaptivity to changing their dynamic properties and can be deployed rapidly. This enables new applications and extends the usability of fully autonomous UAVs, unlike other tuning methods, which basically require the availability of a UAV model. The core difference with respect to other research from the field is that other authors either use a model of a UAV to optimize the gains analytically or use machine learning techniques, what increases time consumption, whereas the presented methods offer a rapid way to tune controllers, in a reliable way, with deterministic time requirements.

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Acknowledgements

The presented work has been supported by Poznan University of Technology under grant No. 214/SBAD/0220, as well as by the Czech Science Foundation (GAC̆R) under research project No. 20-10280S, EU H2020 project AERIAL CORE, No. 871479 and CTU grant No. SGS20/174/OHK3/3T/13.

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Horla, D., Giernacki, W., Báča, T. et al. AL-TUNE: A Family of Methods to Effectively Tune UAV Controllers in In-flight Conditions. J Intell Robot Syst 103, 5 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10846-021-01441-y

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Keywords

  • Auto-tuning
  • UAV
  • Optimal controller gains
  • Altitude controller
  • In-flight tuning