Energy Aware Path Planning in Complex Four Dimensional Environments

Open Access
Chakrabarty, Anjan
Graduate Program:
Aerospace Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 27, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Jack Langelaan, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jack Langelaan, Committee Chair
  • Joseph Francis Horn, Committee Member
  • Mark David Maughmer, Committee Member
  • Constantino Manuel Lagoa, Committee Member
  • path planning
  • UAV
  • complex environment
  • energy aware
  • ground vehicle
  • wind
This dissertation addresses the problem of energy-aware path planning for small autonomous vehicles. While small autonomous vehicles can perform missions that are too risky (or infeasible) for larger vehicles, the missions are limited by the amount of energy that can be carried on board the vehicle. Path planning techniques that either minimize energy consumption or exploit energy available in the environment can thus increase range and endurance. Path planning is complicated by significant spatial (and potentially temporal) variations in the environment. While the main focus is on autonomous aircraft, this research also addresses autonomous ground vehicles. Range and endurance of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be greatly improved by utilizing energy from the atmosphere. Wind can be exploited to minimize energy consumption of a small UAV. But wind, like any other atmospheric component, is a space and time varying phenomenon. To effectively use wind for long range missions, both exploration and exploitation of wind is critical. This research presents a kinematics based tree algorithm which efficiently handles the four dimensional (three spatial and time) path planning problem. The Kinematic Tree algorithm provides a sequence of waypoints, airspeeds, heading and bank angle commands for each segment of the path. The planner is shown to be resolution complete and computationally efficient. Global optimality of the cost function cannot be claimed, as energy is gained from the atmosphere, making the cost function $inadmissible$. However the Kinematic Tree is shown to be optimal up to resolution if the cost function is admissible. Simulation results show the efficacy of this planning method for a glider in complex real wind data. Simulation results verify that the planner is able to extract energy from the atmosphere enabling long range missions. The Kinematic Tree planning framework, developed to minimize energy consumption of UAVs, is applied for path planning in ground robots. In traditional path planning problem the focus is on obstacle avoidance and navigation. The optimal Kinematic Tree algorithm named Kinematic Tree* is shown to find optimal paths to reach the destination while avoiding obstacles. A more challenging path planning scenario arises for planning in complex terrain. This research shows how the Kinematic Tree* algorithm can be extended to find minimum energy paths for a ground vehicle in difficult mountainous terrain.