Simulation of a Machine Learning Based Controller for a Fixed-Wing UAV with Distributed Sensors

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

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Recent research suggests that the information obtained from arrays of sensors distributed on the wing of a fixed-wing small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can provide information not available to conventional sensor suites. These arrays of sensors are capable of sensing the flow around the aircraft and it has been indicated that they could be a potential tool to improve flight control and overall flight performance. However, more work needs to be carried out to fully exploit the potential of these sensors for flight control. This work presents a 3 degrees-of-freedom longitudinal flight dynamics and control simulation model of a small fixed-wing UAV. Experimental readings of an array of pressure and strain sensors distributed across the wing were integrated in the model. This study investigated the feasibility of using machine learning to control airspeed of the UAV using the readings from the sensing array, and looked into the sensor layout and its effect on the performance of the controller. It was found that an artificial neural network was able to learn to mimic a conventional airspeed controller using only distributed sensor signals, but showed better performance for controlling changes in airspeed for a constant altitude than holding airspeed during changes in altitude. The neural network could control airspeed using either pressure or strain sensor information, but having both improved robustness to increased levels of turbulence. Results showed that some strain sensors and many pressure sensors signals were not necessary to achieve good controller performance, but that the pressure sensors near the leading edge of the wing were required. Future work will focus on replacing other elements of the flight control system with machine learning elements and investigate the use of reinforcement learning in place of supervised learning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAIAA SciTech Forum and Exposition 2020
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc. (AIAA)
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2020
EventAIAA SciTech Forum 2020 - Hyatt Regency Orlando, Orlando, United States
Duration: 6 Jan 202010 Jan 2020


ConferenceAIAA SciTech Forum 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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