A SIMPLE APPROACH TO QUADROCOPTER FORMATION FLYING TEST SETUP FOR EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Q. Ali, S. Montenegro

Würzburg University (GERMANY)
With the advancement in Micro Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) technology, Avionics and miniaturization of sensors; Mini Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (MUAVs) have drawn considerable attention, particularly during the last decade. Due to their affordability for common and versatile applications, their popularity is growing exponentially. In order to increase efficiency and redundancy, researchers all over the World are now concentrating towards multiple MUAVs flying together and performing cooperative tasks. Some of the valuable applications in the domain of cooperative control include traffic monitoring, search and rescue, mobile communication relays, pesticide spraying and weather monitoring etc. Though realization of multi-UAV coupled flight is complex, however obvious advantages justify the laborious work involved.

Keeping in view the stated advantages, a simple test setup has been developed at Institute of Aerospace Information Technology, University of Würzburg, Germany to realize basic functionalities for formation flight of quadrocopters. The testing environment is planned to be utilized not only for testing and validating the algorithms for formation flying capability in real environment but also for education purpose. An already existing test bed for single quadrocopter was extended with necessary inter-communication and distributed control mechanism to test the algorithms for formation flights in 2 degrees of freedom (roll/pitch). This study encompasses the domain of communication, control and embedded systems programming. Bluetooth protocol has been used for inter-communication between two quadrocopters. A simple approach of PID control in combination with Kalman filter has been exploited. MATLAB Instrument Control Toolbox has been used for data display, analysis and plotting. Plots can be drawn in real-time and received data can also be stored in the form of files for later use and analysis. The test setup has been developed indigenously and at considerably low cost. Emphasis has been placed on simplicity to facilitate students learning process. Several lessons have been learnt during the course of development of this test setup. Proposed setup is quite flexible that can be modified as per changing requirements.