Design and Control of an Indoor Miniature Autonomous Blimp
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Aerial robots have been pushing the boundary of indoor capabilities by demonstrating application success in tasks such as surveillance and inspection. However, existing drones are still notoriously unsatisfactory in aspects including safety and endurance. For example, mini quadcopters usually exhibit sub-ten minute flight times, and require cages and netted enclosures for safe indoor operation. We present a miniature autonomous blimp that can safely operate in close proximities to humans and can fly for multiple hours. The blimp prototype outlined in this thesis features including a saucer-shaped design without tail fin, symmetrical planar actuation, a low-latency off-board control scheme, ultra-light-weight electronics, and an improved localization system. The blimp also has a compact design that favors mobility in confined indoor spaces. The modeling, identification, and controller design of the miniature blimp is presented with emphasis on swing oscillation reduction. This undesired motion is inevitable among indoor blimps and can impact many applications. We establish the dynamics model and identified the parameters of the swing motion for both hovering and cruising flight. A swing-reducing flight control system is then developed that incorporates the strong coupling between the translational and rotational movements of the blimp. Waypoint navigation and station-keeping flights are experimentally validated with swing oscillation reduction.