Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering

Committee Director

Thomas E. Alberts

Committee Member

Brett Newman

Committee Member

Drew Landman

Committee Member

Miltiadis Kotinis

Committee Member

Oscar R. González


Quadrotors offer practical solutions for many applications, such as emergency rescue, surveillance, military operations, videography and many more. For this reason, they have recently attracted the attention of research and industry. Even though they have been intensively studied, quadrotors still suffer from some challenges that limit their use, such as trajectory measurement, attitude estimation, obstacle avoidance, safety precautions, and land cybersecurity. One major problem is flying in a confined environment, such as closed buildings and tunnels, where the aerodynamics around the quadrotor are affected by close proximity objects, which result in tracking performance deterioration, and sometimes instability. To address this problem, researchers followed three different approaches; the Modeling approach, which focuses on the development of a precise dynamical model that accounts for the different aerodynamic effects, the Sensor Integration approach, which focuses on the addition of multiple sensors to the quadrotor and applying algorithms to stabilize the quadrotor based on their measurements, and the Controller Design approach, which focuses on the development of an adaptive and robust controller. In this research, a learning controller is proposed as a solution for the issue of quadrotor trajectory control in confined environments. This controller utilizes Artificial Neural Networks to adjust for the unknown aerodynamics on-line. A systematic approach for controller design is developed, so that, the approach could be followed for the development of controllers for other nonlinear systems of similar form. One goal for this research is to develop a global controller that could be applied to any quadrotor with minimal adjustment. A novel Artificial Neural Network structure is presented that increases learning efficiency and speed. In addition, a new learning algorithm is developed for the Artificial Neural Network, when utilized with the developed controller.

Simulation results for the designed controller when applied to the Qball-X4 quadrotor are presented that show the effectiveness of the proposed Artificial Neural Network structure and the developed learning algorithm in the presence of variety of different unknown aerodynamics. These results are confirmed with real time experimentation, as the developed controller was successfully applied to Quanser’s Qball-X4 quadrotor for the flight control in confined environment. The practical challenges associated with the application of such a controller for quadrotor flight in confined environment are analyzed and adequately resolved to achieve an acceptable tracking performance.


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