A Minimalist Control Strategy for Small UAVs
Most autopilots of existing Miniature Unmanned Air Vehicles (MUAVs) rely on control architectures that typically use a large number of sensors (gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers, GPS) and a computationally demanding estimation of flight states. As a consequence, they tend to be complex, require a significant amount of processing power and are usually expensive. Many research projects that aim at experiments with one, or even several, MUAVs would benefit from a simpler, potentially smaller, lighter and less expensive autopilot for their flying platforms. In this paper, we present a minimalist control strategy for fixed-wing MUAVs that provides the three basic functionalities of airspeed, altitude and heading turnrate control while only using two pressure sensors and a single- axis rate gyro. To achieve this, we use reactive control loops, which rely on direct feedback from the sensors instead of full state information. In order to characterize the control strategy, it was implemented on a custom-made autopilot. With data recorded during flight experiments, we carried out a statistical analysis of step responses to altitude and turnrate commands as well as responses to artificial perturbations.