Hybrid Dynamics and Control Laboratory Researchers to Improve Abilities of Unmanned Aircraft

Researchers at the Hybrid Dynamics and Control Laboratory of the UA College of Engineering are working on mathematical investigation and design methodologies for drastically enhancing the abilities of the unmanned surveillance aircraft.

They are developing computer control systems for enabling the airplanes to stay in the air for an indefinite period and to make it navigate through small apertures as they get inside buildings. The control systems will also guide aircrafts and terrain vehicles to effectively move in disorderly environments without crashing.

The computer control systems can be deployed in several applications involved in robotics, aerospace engineering and biology fields. Ricardo Sanfelice, Director of Hybrid Dynamics and Control Laboratory and Assistant Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, has stated that after investigating newly modeled dynamical systems by mathematical methods, they would develop new control methods. This is followed by assessing the dynamical systems in simulations and verifying them in their test bed whenever possible. He mentioned that they need to be very cautious to ensure the precision of simulations since they depict real time applications. This is due to the complexities involved in the systems’ movement including unexpected variations in direction or speed.

The laboratory includes a cavernous test lab with eight cameras. These cameras are mounted on a rail, at a distance of 20 feet from the floor. The cameras were previously developed to capture motions of animals and human beings, followed by developing animated figures from the captured images. Currently, these cameras are used to continuously record the motions of computer-driven vehicles, aircrafts and helicopters, thereby functioning as a satellite.

Sanfelice has mentioned that their theories are assessed round-the-clock in the cavernous test lab, thereby avoiding weather restraints concerned in outdoor testing. He mentioned that the systems required to be controlled are mathematically modeled and they develop a group of computer commands to achieve the desired tasks like hovering. He added that after successively completing the indoor testing they can utilize their resources more effectively when they proceed to test in real environments to verify and modify their controllers.

At present, Sanfelice and his students are researching on developing methods to obtain energy from bursts of wind and heat to reach high altitude without utilizing power. Sanfelice has stated that this new approach stands apart from traditional control systems since the impact of disturbances are completely eliminated. Since the theory of hybrid control system is an emerging field, hypothetical tools for assessment, development and simulation of computer control systems are not yet fully developed. Sanfelice and his team are designing a toolbox for all hybrid systems for making them easy to use. He is expecting that their simulation software for hybrid systems will ultimately turn out to be part of a commercial simulation product.

Source: http://www.eng.ua.edu

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