Autonomous Hopping Rotochute

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Aksaray, Derya
Mavris, Dimitri N.
Costello, Mark
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The Hopping Rotochute is a promising micro vehicle with the capability of exploring rough and complex terrains with minimum energy consumption. While it is able to fly over obstacles via thrust produced by its coaxial rotor, its physical architecture, inspired from a "Weebles Wooble," provides re-orientation wherever it hits the ground. Therefore, this aerial and ground vehicle represents a potential hybrid vehicle capable of reconnaissance and surveillance missions in complex environments. The most recent version of the Hopping Rotochute is manually controlled to follow a trajectory. The control commands, listed in a file prior to the particular mission, are executed exactly as defined, like a "batch job," regardless of the uncertain external events. This control scheme is likely to cause great deviations from the route. Consequently, the vehicle may finish the mission very far away from the desired end point. However, if a vehicle is capable of receiving the control commands during a mission, "interactive processing" can be realized and efficient path tracking would be achieved. Hence, the development of the Hopping Rotochute that follows a trajectory autonomously reveals the foundation of this thesis. Two control approaches inspired the proposed methodology for developing an autonomous trajectory-following algorithm. The first approach is rule-based control that enables decision making through conditional statements. In this thesis, rule-based control is used to select a target point for a particular hop based on the existence of an obstacle and/or wind in the environment. The second approach is model predictive control employed to predict future outputs from hop performance models. In other words, this technique approaches the problem by providing intelligence pertaining to how a particular hop will end up before being attempted. Hence, the optimum control commands are selected based on the predicted performance of a particular hop. This research demonstrates that the autonomous Hopping Rotochute can be realized by rule-based control embedded with some performance models. In the assumption of known boundaries such as wall and ceiling information, this study has two aims: (1) to avoid obstacles by creating a smaller operational volume inside the real boundaries so that the vehicle is restricted from exiting the operational volume and no violation occurs within the real boundaries; (2) to estimate the wind by previous hops to select the next hopping point with respect to the estimated wind information. Based on the developed methodology, simulations are conducted for four different scenarios in the existence of obstacles and/or wind, and the results of the simulations are analyzed. Finally, based on the statistics of simulation results, the effectiveness of the proposed methodology is discussed.
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