Autonomous control system for unconventional electric VTOL personal air vehicle

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Aerodynamic and physical model simulation of a manned unconventional VTOL aircraft with 10 electrical motors, allowing VTOL operations with 8 motors (symmetrical octorotor control) and fixed-wing flights with 2 pusher motors.

The fixed-wing flight mode allows a higher cruising speed (over 100 knots) comparable to a modern ultralight aircraft. Based on canard aircraft control (similar to a Rutan VariEze), front canard elevators control pitch while bigger rear wing ailerons control roll. Two vertical rudder control surfaces are located as well in the rear wings.

Unconventional VTOL personal aircraft

The 3D model was originally designed following the Zee.aero’s patent: US8485464 Total size and operational weight, as well the size of control surfaces were estimated and manually adjusted for a fixed-wing smooth flight.

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After the first version the model was able to take-off and land, approach and maneuver in VTOL mode, and transition while hovering to a cruising speed in fixed-wing mode and vice-versa. Later on a fly-by-wire system was developed in order to provide simplified controls and optimize battery use.

Zee.aero Flight Controller.pngThe flight controller will interface between several flying critical system that will allow the fly-by-wire subsystems to access the pilot input and the array of sensors in order to control the axis torque or translational velocity needed to meet the user input and current aircraft attitude and acceleration by axis.

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Using a subsystem of PID controllers the fly-by-wire and the autonomous navigation system (Flight Plan Controller) are able to fine control the position, angle per axis and spatial and angular velocities. These PID controllers were manually tuned based on their specific area of control and looking for a smooth transition control instead of a fast setting configuration, to ensure human occupants and pilot a confortable fly experience.

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In order to achieve the autonomous navigation, the Flight Plan controller takes charges of the aircraft input instead of the human pilot input. However the direct input is replaced by movement routines that emulates a smooth and safe human input. Following a flight plan with multiples states, the autonomous navigation system is able take-off, transition to cruise mode, navigate waypoints and land safely at the destination. During the whole autonomous navigation session the GPS and several other redundant sensors are feeding vehicle attitude and velocities to the controller that using the fly-by-wire controller is able to correct the errors thousands of times per second.

Using a robotic approach with sensor fusion and computer vision. The aircraft is able autonomously to take off and land by itself, making sure both approaches, transition and touch-downs are designed to provide maximum comfort and safety to the passengers using human thresholds of perception for linear and angular acceleration on three axis.

 

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