High Performance Nap-of-the-Earth Unmanned Helicopter Flight
Johnson, Eric N.
Mooney, John G.
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This paper describes recent results from a partnership between the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and the Georgia Institute of Technology to develop, improve, and flight test a sensor, guidance, navigation, control, and real-time flight path optimization system to support high performance nap-of-the-Earth helicopter flight. The emphasis here is on optimization for a combination of low height above terrain/obstacles and high speeds. Multiple methods for generating the desired flight path were evaluated, including (1) a simple processing of each laser scan; and (2) a potential field based method. Simulation and flight test results have been obtained utilizing an onboard laser scanner to detect terrain and obstacles while flying at low altitude, and have successfully demonstrated obstacle avoidance at speeds up to 40 ft/s while maintaining a miss distance of 50 ft horizontally and vertically. These results indicate that the technical approach is sound, paving the way for testing of even lower altitudes, higher speeds, and more aggressive maneuvering in future work.