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DCL Lecture Series: Craig Woolsey, Flight Control in the Design of Biomimetic Flight Vehicles

Speaker Associate Professor Craig Woolsey, Aerospace & Ocean Engineering, Virginia Tech
Date Nov 28, 2012
Time 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm  
Location CSL Auditorium (B02 CSL)
Sponsor Decision and Control Laboratory, Coordinated Science Laboratory
Contact Angie Ellis
Phone 217-300-1910
Event type seminar
Views 1090
Originating Calendar CSL Decision and Control Group

Decision and Control Lecture Series

Decision and Control Laboratory, Coordinated Science Laboratory

Flight Control in the Design of Biomimetic Flight Vehicles

Associate Professor Craig Woolsey

Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Virginia Tech

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

B02 Auditorium CSL



Recent interest in biomimetic flight has been motivated by the “pull” from security applications, such as unobtrusive mobile surveillance, and the “push” from scholars seeking new research challenges, such as the modeling and design of unsteady, nonlinear aerostructural systems.  This presentation will describe some efforts to incorporate flight control into the design optimization of flapping wing micro-air vehicles (MAVs). 

To begin, we present a control design method for stabilizing a flapping wing MAV in a gusty environment [1]. The objective is to incorporate gust tolerance as a performance metric in multidisciplinary design optimization.  In the approach, the rigid-wing MAV is modeled as a nonlinear periodic system and the periodic-shooting method is used to find a trimmed, periodic orbit. A linear, discrete-time dynamic model is obtained by linearizing about the trimmed periodic orbit.  This linearized model is then used for control synthesis, using linear quadratic regulator (LQR) theory, where the kinematic variables defining the wing motion are the control inputs. The controller is implemented on the nonlinear system model to stabilize the system in the presence of external disturbances, modeled as discrete gusts. The controller’s performance may then be assessed in terms of the gust speed tolerance of the nonlinear, closed-loop system.

Following this more conventional approach to flapping wing MAV modeling and control design, we investigate the use of geometric control and averaging theory to evaluate (and then maximize) control authority.  Here, we consider a simple flapping device, but with a view toward design optimization for more sophisticated systems.  Recognizing the device as an underactuated mechanical system and approaching control design using geometric control and averaging, we first demonstrate control and stabilization and then formulate a design optimization problem involving maximizing maneuverability [2,3]. 

[1] “LQR controller for stabilization of flapping wing MAV in gust environments ,” M. Bhatia, M. Patil, and C. A. Woolsey, AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conference, Minneapolis, MN, August 2012. (In collaboration with B. Stanford and P. Beran)

[2] “Geometric control of a flapping device in a uniform flow,” H. Taha, C. Woolsey and S. Tahmasian, AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, 2013. (To appear.)

[3] “A geometric control approach for optimum maneuverability of flapping wing MAVs near hover,” H. E Taha, C. A. Woolsey, and M. R. Hajj (In review.)


Craig Woolsey an Associate Professor in Virginia Tech’s Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Department.  The principal aim of Dr. Woolsey’s research is to improve performance and robustness of autonomous vehicles, particularly ocean and atmospheric vehicles.  The theoretical focus is nonlinear control, particularly energy-based methods for mechanical control systems.  Dr. Woolsey is a past recipient of the NSF Career Award and the ONR Young Investigator Program Award, as well as the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award.    Dr. Woolsey is also the founding Director of the Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems (www.unmanned.vt.edu), an interdisciplinary research center which includes more than thirty faculty members from four Virginia Tech colleges.