RotorTM: A Flexible Simulator for Aerial Transportation and Manipulation

Guanrui Li, Xinyang Liu, Giuseppe Loianno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Low-cost autonomous micro aerial vehicles have great potential to help humans by simplifying and speeding up complex tasks, such as construction, package delivery, and search and rescue. These systems, which may consist of single or multiple vehicles, can be equipped with passive connection mechanisms, such as rigid links or cables for transportation and manipulation tasks. However, these systems are inherently complex. They are often underactuated and evolve in nonlinear manifold configuration spaces. In addition, the complexity escalates for systems with cable-suspended load due to the hybrid dynamics that vary with the cables' tension conditions. This article presents the first aerial transportation and manipulation simulator incorporating different payloads and passive connection mechanisms with full system dynamics, planning, and control algorithms. Furthermore, it includes a novel general model accounting for the transient hybrid dynamics for aerial systems with cable-suspended load to closely mimic real-world systems. The availability of a flexible and intuitive interface further contributes to its usability and versatility. Comparisons between simulations and real-world experiments with different vehicles' configurations show the fidelity of the simulator results with respect to real-world settings. The experiments also show the simulator's benefit for the rapid prototyping and transitioning of aerial transportation and manipulation systems to real-world deployment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)831-850
Number of pages20
JournalIEEE Transactions on Robotics
StatePublished - 2024


  • Aerial robotics
  • aerial systems and applications
  • aerial transportation and manipulation
  • micro aerial vehicles (MAVs)
  • simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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