Robust Model Predictive Flight Control of Unmanned Rotorcrafts

Kostas Alexis, Christos Papachristos, Roland Siegwart, Anthony Tzes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper addresses the problem of robust flight control of unmanned rotorcrafts, by proposing and experimentally evaluating a real–time robust model predictive control scheme in various challenging conditions, aiming to capture the demanding nature of the potential requirements for their efficient and safe integration in real–life operations. The control derivation process is based on state space representations applicable in most rotorcraft configurations and incorporate the effects of external disturbances. Exploiting this modeling approach, two different unmanned rotorcraft configurations are presented and experimentally utilized. The formulated control strategy consists of a receding horizon scheme, the optimization process of which employs the minimum peak performance measure, while incorporating and accounting for the modeled dynamics and input and state constraints. This strategy aims to ensure the minimum possible deviation subject to the worst–case disturbance, while robustly respecting and satisfying the physical limitations of the system, or a set of mission-related requirements, as encoded in the constraints. The proposed framework is further augmented in order to provide obstacle avoidance capabilities into a unified scheme. Multiparametric methods were utilized in order to provide an explicit solution to the controller computation optimization problem, therefore allowing for fast real–time execution and seamless integration into any digital avionics system. The efficiency of the proposed strategy is validated via several experimental case studies on the two unmanned rotorcraft platforms. The experiments set consists of: trajectory tracking subject to atmospheric disturbances, slung load operations, fast highly disturbed maneuvers, collisions handling, as well as avoidance of known obstacles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-469
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems: Theory and Applications
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • MPC
  • Robust control
  • Unmanned aerial systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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