Computer Aided Formation Flight for Autonomous and Semi-Autonomous Rotorcraft Using Model Predictive Control
S. Shankar Sastry
Formation flight is the primary movement technique for teams of helicopters. However, the potential for accidents is greatly increased when helicopter teams are required to fly in tight formations and under harsh conditions. The starting point for safe autonomous flight formations is to design a distributed control law attenuating external disturbances coming into a formation, so that each vehicle can safely maintain sufficient space between it and all other vehicles. In order to avoid the conservative nature inherent in distributed MPC algorithms, we begin by designing a stable MPC for individual vehicles, and then introducing carefully designed inter-agent coupling terms in each performance index. The proposed algorithm works in a decentralized manner, and is applied to the problem of helicopter formations comprised of heterogenous vehicles. The disturbance attenuation property of the proposed MPC controller is validated throughout a series of computer simulations.