Hierarchical Path Planning and Control of a Small Fixed-wing UAV: Theory and Experimental Validation
Jung, Dongwon Jung
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Recently there has been a tremendous growth of research emphasizing control of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) either in isolation or in teams. As a matter of fact, UAVs increasingly find their way to applications, especially in military and law enforcement (e.g., reconnaissance, remote delivery of urgent equipment/material, resource assessment, environmental monitoring, battlefield monitoring, ordnance delivery, etc.). This trend will continue in the future, as UAVs are poised to replace the human-in-the-loop during dangerous missions. Civilian applications of UAVs are also envisioned such as crop dusting, geological surveying, search and rescue operations, etc. In this thesis we propose a new online multiresolution path planning algorithm for a small UAV with limited on-board computational resources. The proposed approach assumes that the UAV has detailed information of the environment and the obstacles only in its vicinity. Information about far-away obstacles is also available, albeit less accurately. The proposed algorithm uses the fast lifting wavelet transform (FLWT) to get a multiresolution cell decomposition of the environment, whose dimension is commensurate to the on-board computational resources. A topological graph representation of the multiresolution cell decomposition is constructed efficiently, directly from the approximation and detail wavelet coefficients. Dynamic path planning is sequentially executed for an optimal path using the A* algorithm over the resulting graph. The proposed path planning algorithm is implemented on-line on a small autopilot. Comparisons with the standard D*-lite algorithm are also presented. We also investigate the problem of generating a smooth, planar reference path from a discrete optimal path. Upon the optimal path being represented as a sequence of cells in square geometry, we derive a smooth B-spline path that is constrained inside a channel that is induced by the geometry of the cells. To this end, a constrained optimization problem is formulated by setting up geometric linear constraints as well as boundary conditions. Subsequently, we construct B-spline path templates by solving a set of distinct optimization problems. For an application to the UAV motion planning, the path templates are incorporated to replace parts of the entire path by the smooth B-spline paths. Each path segment is stitched together while preserving continuity to obtain a final smooth reference path to be used for path following control. The path following control for a small fixed-wing UAV to track the prescribed smooth reference path is also addressed. Assuming the UAV is equipped with an autopilot for low level control, we adopt a kinematic error model with respect to the moving Serret-Frenet frame attached to a path for tracking controller design. A kinematic path following control law that commands heading rate is presented. Backstepping is applied to derive the roll angle command by taking into account the approximate closed-loop roll dynamics. A parameter adaptation technique is employed to account for the inaccurate time constant of the closed-loop roll dynamics during actual implementation. Finally, we implement the proposed hierarchical path control of a small UAV on the actual hardware platform, which is based on an 1/5 scale R/C model airframe (Decathlon) and the autopilot hardware and software. Based on the hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulation environment, the proposed hierarchical path control algorithm has been validated through the on-line, real-time implementation on a small micro-controller. By a seamless integration of the control algorithms for path planning, path smoothing, and path following, it has been demonstrated that the UAV equipped with a small autopilot having limited computational resources manages to accomplish the path control objective to reach the goal while avoiding obstacles with minimal human intervention.