Real-time Path Planning and Autonomous Control for Helicopter Autorotation

Open Access
Yomchinda, Thanan
Graduate Program:
Aerospace Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 18, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Joseph Francis Horn, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jacob Willem Langelaan, Dissertation Advisor
  • Joseph Francis Horn, Committee Chair
  • Edward C Smith, Committee Member
  • Christopher Rahn, Special Member
  • Autorotation
  • Path Planning
  • Helicopter Control
  • Dynamic Inversion
  • Trajectory Tracking
Autorotation is a descending maneuver that can be used to recover helicopters in the event of total loss of engine power; however it is an extremely difficult and complex maneuver. The objective of this work is to develop a real-time system which provides full autonomous control for autorotation landing of helicopters. The work includes the development of an autorotation path planning method and integration of the path planner with a primary flight control system. The trajectory is divided into three parts: entry, descent and flare. Three different optimization algorithms are used to generate trajectories for each of these segments. The primary flight control is designed using a linear dynamic inversion control scheme, and a path following control law is developed to track the autorotation trajectories. Details of the path planning algorithm, trajectory following control law, and autonomous autorotation system implementation are presented. The integrated system is demonstrated in real-time high fidelity simulations. Results indicate feasibility of the capability of the algorithms to operate in real-time and of the integrated systems ability to provide safe autorotation landings. Preliminary simulations of autonomous autorotation on a small UAV are presented which will lead to a final hardware demonstration of the algorithms.