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Design of a PID altitude controller for a micro-helicopter

D.A Browne University of Birmingham, Department of Mechanical Engineering

A test rig has been designed and constructed to restrict a model helicopter to motion with only one degree of freedom. This simplification has allowed an altitude autopilot to be designed for a micro-helicopter in isolation from cross coupling with other degrees of freedom, as well as allowing the controller to be physically implemented for testing in a low-risk. The autopilot comprises of two SISO controllers; one to maintain a constant rotor blade angular velocity and another to control altitude by varying rotor blade AOA. The controller design has been based upon linearized mathematical models of the micro-helicopters drivetrain and aerodynamics. The controllers have been discretized and tested in combined operation within a non-linear simulation model written in Simulink. Following this the autopilot has been implemented in the C computer language running on a microcontroller that is connected to rotor speed and altitude sensors constructed from Hall-effect devices. The autopilot implementation was successfully tested on a customised Gaui EP-100 micro-helicopter mounted on the test rig. The flight data from this implementation has been recorded to support model verification/refinement as well as to suggest improvements for future autopilot designs. Keywords Micro-helicopter, Autopilot, PID, Flight control, UAV

1. Introduction
Micro-helicopters are emerging as a platform for a low cost unmanned air vehicle (UAV) that can carry a small payload such as a camera or other surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. One of the biggest challenges in the implementation of a micro-helicopter UAV is the design of a robust autopilot system due to their fast dynamics, cross coupled degrees of freedom, non-linearitys and uncertain dynamic parameters. For the case of low cost implementations there are also problems due to inaccurate actuators and low quality sensors. A wide range of research into autopilots for microhelicopters has already been performed, using a range of different control design methodologies. These include model-based predictive control [1], control [2,3], adaptive control [4] and proportional-integral-derivative (PID) control [5].

The PID autopilot that is proposed in [5] proposes a control structure, but does not suggest a way of obtaining gain values other than through trial and error. The initial aim of this report is to provide the first stage in the derivation of two mathematical models of the micro-helicopter plant to support the design of a PID controller for a new altitude autopilot. The first of these models is to be a linearized continuous time model that can be analysed and used to obtain initial PID gain values. The second model is to be a non-linear model written in the simulation environment Simulink (Mathworks) that can be used to analyse and tune the performance of the controller with various non-linearitys considered. The aim is for both of these mathematical models to be derived for a generic micro-helicopter design

so that they are easily applicable to a range of different micro-helicopters. In order to focus on altitude control, a test-rig has been designed and constructed to hold a microhelicopter and to restrict all of its available degrees of freedom except altitude. The use of this test-rig has been included in the two mathematical models. The second aim of this report is to utilize the two mathematical models to support the design and tuning of an autopilot for the Gaui EP-100 microhelicopter. Once the design of this autopilot has been completed, it will be implemented on a modified version of the micro-helicopter that is mounted on the test-rig. Several tests will then be performed to provide verification for the two mathematical models and control design, as well as suggest future refinements that could be made.

use this angle as the altitude parameter to be controlled. A small magnet is placed upon the test-rig pivot, so that it rotates with the rod. The angle of the rod is then detected using a rotary Hall Effect sensor which detects the local magnetic field direction.


Gaui EP-100a

2. Equipment
2.1 Test-rig

The drivetrain on the Gaui EP-100 is typical for a micro-helicopter and consists of a number of components; a battery source, an electronic speed controller (ESC), a brushless direct current (BLDC) motor and a set of gears that connect it to 2 rotor blades. The angle of attack (AOA) of the rotor blades is controlled through a cyclic / collective pitch mixing (CCPM) swash-plate mechanism which is positioned by three servo motors. The height of the swash plate governs the collective AOA input, and the orientation governs the cyclic input. The customized Gaui EP-100 micro-helicopter uses a Hall Effect switch to measure the speed of the rotor blades. An on-board microcontroller takes inputs from the test-rig angle sensor and speed sensor and outputs control signals to the 3 servo motors and the ESC. The customized version of the micro-helicopter has been named the Gaui EP100a (a for autopilot) to differentiate it from the off-the-shelf version. The full details of the micro-helicopters components are found in Appendix 1, a labelled photo of the micro-helicopter mounted on the testrig is shown in Appendix 2 and an electronic schematic diagram is shown in Appendix 4.

Figure 1. Diagram of test-rig design

The test rig that has been designed consists of a rod that is pivoted at one end, with the helicopter fixed on the other (figure 1). The helicopter is therefore restricted to flying through a circular arc about the pivot. Although this design does not perfectly represent a helicopter flying vertically, it greatly simplifies the equipment design, due to the simple joint mechanism. For the case of a helicopter mounted on this test-rig the altitude is related to the angle made between the rod and the horizontal (). The controller will

3. Autopilot design
3.1 Overview of proposed autopilot

The altitude of a micro-helicopter is related to two control inputs; rotor blade collective AOA input and main rotor angular velocity. These two inputs adjust the total lift that is produced by the main rotor and therefore the vertical acceleration of the microhelicopter.

To control the micro-helicopters altitude, the autopilot designed in this report uses an approach of maintaining a constant trim rotor blade angular velocity () and adjusting lift by varying rotor blade collective AOA. The autopilot consists of 2 single-input-singleoutput (SISO) control systems that are run simultaneously. Throughout this report, these two systems will be referred to as the Altitude controller and the Drivetrain controller. Each control system consists of a PID structure complemented with feed forward terms. The controllers have been designed using a classical continuous-time design procedure, and have then been discretised.

drivetrain at the point of the motor ( ). As the stator rotates it generates a back EMF ( ) that opposes the motion due to Lenzs law [6], with a magnitude that is proportional to the angular velocity ( ) and a back EMF constant ( ). The net voltage applied across the stator therefore decreases, and so does the acceleration. This process repeats itself until steady-state when the net torque is zero {1-4}. * + ( ) * + * + * +


Controller design specification

The main requirement of the speed controller is that it maintains a constant trim rotor speed with zero steady state error. A damping ratio shall be selected which offers the best trade-off between the magnitude of the maximum error from disturbances, and the settling time. The requirements of the altitude controller are that it has a steady state error of less than 1 with no overshoot.

For the brushed DC motor analogy it is assumed that the voltage that is applied across the motor is governed by a pulse-position-modulation (PPM) signal sent to the ESC. The length of the pulse in this signal corresponds to a certain percentage of the total battery EMF that is applied by the ESC across the motor. The total inertia at the motor consists of a value equal to the motors own inertia ( ) summed with the inertia of each of the two rotor blades ( ) and the gear cog ( ) transferred through the gear ratio ( ){5}[7]. ( ) * +


Linearized continuous time model


A common assumption that is used in this report is that the BLDC motor can be analysed in analogy with a brushed DC motor [6]. For this case it is considered that there is a direct voltage ( ) applied by the ESC across the motor stators that causes a current ( ) to flow that is inversely proportional to the stator resistance ( ). The magneto-motive force of this current generates a torque ( ) on the stator that is proportional to a torque coefficient ( ) and the motor efficiency ( ). This torque is summed with any torque load on the motor ( ), and the net torque ( ) causes an acceleration of the armature ( ) that is proportional to the total inertia of the entire

BLDC motors, such as the GUEC GM-812 provided with the Gaui EP-100 are often provided with a rating that can be used to approximate the maximum angular velocity that the motor can operate at under no load {6}. They are also provided with an efficiency ( ), maximum power ( ) ( ) and voltage ( ) rating. * + By considering the relationship between electrical and mechanical power, the data that is provided with the motor is used to calculate the back EMF and torque coefficients {7-11}.

* + * + ( ( ) ) * * Finally, by considering the maximum voltage and power ratings of the motor, and at what angular velocity they occur, it is possible to derive the resistance of the motor stator {12-16}. ( ) * + * + + +

* For a given gear ratio between the motor and the rotor ( ), the angular velocity of the rotor can be related to the angular velocity of the motor {20}. * The lift force and torque acting on each blade can then be calculated by considering the contribution made by each element of the blades using the modern lift equation {21,23} and then integrating over their entire length {22,24} [8]. ( ) *

* )

) (

The rotor blades on the Gaui EP-100 are assumed to be symmetrical and have a constant chord. The aerodynamics of each rotor blades are then assumed to follow Thin Aerofoil Theory (TAT). This allows the coefficient of lift ( ) and drag ( ) for each blade to be calculated based upon its dimensions and AOA {17-18}. It will later be seen that high AOA values will be used on the blades, and it is therefore assumed that the parasite drag is negligible compared to the induced drag {19}.The validity of these assumptions for other microhelicopters will depend on their rotor blades. * +

The torque load acting at the motor can be calculated by considering the transfer of torque through the motor-rotor gearing for a given number of rotor blades ( ){25}. * +

In order to derive a drivetrain transfer function that relates motor velocity to supply voltage ( ){26}, the torque load at the motor must be linearized with respect to motor velocity. It is assumed that with controller action, the motor velocity does not deviate far from its trim value and therefore can be approximated by {27}. This allows equation {25} to be approximately differentiated with respect to motor angular velocity as shown in {28}. By considering the applied voltage, back EMF and torque load together it is possible to calculate the transfer function as being {29}. This is represented in block diagram form in (Figure 3a).

( )

( ) ( )

* *

+ + )

constant disturbance on the system for any given ( )){35}, as shown by the block test-rig angle ( diagram in (Figure 3c). The resultant transfer function is given in {36}. ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) * +

( ) ( 3.3.2 Kinetics *

( )

* *

+ +

( )

The lift that the rotor blades produce always acts perpendicular to the test-rig rid. The lift force therefore generates a torque about the test-rig pivot ( ) that is proportional to length of the rod ( ) and is uniform with respect to test-rig angle {30}. The weight of the rod and micro-helicopter always acts vertically downwards, and therefore generates a torque that varies with the cosine of the test-rig angle ( ) {31}. * ( * * + +


Gaui EP-100a Parameter trimming

For the drivetrain controller being designed in this report, the rotor blade angular velocity will be maintained at a single trim rotor blade velocity. The trim velocity is selected such that when the rotor blades are at a chosen trim AOA ( ) the net torque on the test-rig is zero when it is perfectly horizontal {37}. ( ( ) ) ( )

The net torque acting on the rod is the sum of the torque due to the lift and weight forces. This net torque causes the rod to angular accelerate at a rate inversely proportional to the total inertia of the test-rig system ( ) {32}. The total inertia is calculated by modelling the system as a lump mass on the end of a rod {33}. * +

The trim AOA is chosen based on the relationship between the steady state motor velocity and AOA for an arbitrary voltage applied across the motor. Considering the motor resistance to be constant, this is related to the electrical power being applied as seen in {1,2,9}. The steady state speed is obtained by equating the torque load on the motor to the torque provided by the motor {38-41}. By considering the lift produced with this steady state velocity and AOA combination it is possible to derive a lift to electrical power discharge ratio. By selecting the AOA which gives the highest ratio, the fly time of the helicopter can be maximised. ( ) ) * +

In order to derive a kinetics transfer function that relates rotor blade AOA to altitude ( ( )){34}, {32} must be separated into the lift and weight components. The transfer function then models the lift component, and the weight is considered as a

( (

) (

The lift-voltage relationship for the Gaui EP-100 with a 7.4V input is plotted in (Figure 2). It is revealed that it is most power efficient to operate at high rotor blade AOA. However, TAT does not take into account stalling, which will occur approximately after 15degrees, and dramatically reduce lift. For a controller to use AOA as a control input, it requires a reasonable range of possible values to be available. Considering that the maximum AOA before stalling occurs is 15, a trim AOA of 10 is selected for the Gaui EP-100a as a trade-off between operating range and power efficiency {41}. Using {37} this results in a trim rotor velocity of or a trim motor velocity of {42}. Figure 2. Lift to electrical power ratio for GUEC GM-812 with 7.4v applied voltage * * + +

controller ( ) is at least 10 times faster than the closed loop bandwidth frequency ( ){43-44}. It is also recommended that the controller sample time ( ) is 10 times smaller than the required settling time ( ) {45}[9]. It will later be seen that the closed loop system for both the SISO controllers are second order. The 5% settling time for a second order system can be approximated as being equal to 3 time constants {46}[10]. The consequence of this is that the closed loop bandwidth frequency of both the altitude and drivetrain controllers is limited by the minimum possible sample time. * * * * 3.5.1 Drivetrain controller limitations + + + +

The speed sensor used on the Gaui EP-100a outputs a reading with a time period ( ) that is inversely proportional to the rotor velocity {47}. * +

At the operational trim speed, is calculated as being equal to . However, to account for disturbances to the speed and to leave a factor of safety, the microcontroller samples the speed reading every 30ms. This time period is used as the discretized drivetrain controller sample time ( ){48}. Using {43-46}, this restricts the drivetrain closed loop bandwidth frequency ( ) to the limitations given in {49-50}.


Gaui EP-100a Hardware limitations

* * *

+ + +

It is recommended from empirical reasoning that the time sampling frequency of a discretized

Due to its method of operation, the instantaneous speed sensor reading represents the average speed reading over half a cycle. This can be approximated as a speed reading with a time delay ( ). There is also potential for there to be an additional speed reading time delay due to the microcontroller calling a speed response before a new speed reading is available( ). The maximum time delays that will be considered will be when speed reading time period is and the speed reading is an entire cycle old {51-53}. The total delay has the potential to make the controller become unstable, and will therefore have to be analysed before the design is completed. * * * + + +

The servo motors on the Gaui EP-100a are required to vary angle of attack through a range of . A time sample rate ( ) of is therefore chosen to give the servo motors time to move the blades through their full range of AOA before the next controller demand {55}. Using {43-46}, this restricts the altitude closed loop bandwidth frequency to the limitations given in {56-57}. * * * For the altitude controller it is considered that any hardware time delays other than that due to the sample time of the microcontroller are negligible, and therefore the maximum time delay is equal to the sample time {58}. Like with the drivetrain controller, this delay must be analysed before the altitude controller is completed. * + + + +

The drivetrain controller is also limited to applying a maximum voltage of across the motor due to the battery supply and motor ratings. This saturation has the potential to make the physically implemented controller behave differently to the linear system analysis that will be performed. This limitation will also have to be analysed before the design is completed. 3.5.2 Altitude controller limitations

The servo motors which control the rotor blade AOA on the Gaui EP-100a are limited to a no load velocity of . When these motors are used to control the rotor blade AOA, they are placed under a torque load due to the aerodynamic turning moment of the rotor blades. It is therefore conservatively assumed that the maximum servo motor velocity under load is . From the swash-plate mechanism analysis in (appendix 3), the maximum rate of change of AOA can then be approximated as being {54} . * +

The servo motors on the Gaui EP-100a also have a minimum resolution of rotation which from the swash-plate analysis can be seen to correspond to an equivalent of change in rotor blade AOA. It can therefore be assumed that at steady state, the achieved AOA is on average from the demanded AOA. This is considered as a steady state quantization disturbance ( ) acting on the micro-helicopter {59} as seen in (figure 3b). ( ) * +


Controller design
Drivetrain controller design

The drivetrain controller ( ( )) controls the drivetrain plant by sending a PPM signal to the ESC that corresponds to a desired voltage to be applied across the BLDC motor. This voltage depends upon the error in motor velocity ( ( )){60}. The

drivetrain plant ( ( )) is a type 0 first order system, which means that a proportional plus integral controller is required to remove steady state errors for step inputs {61}[11]. The controller in series with the drivetrain plant results in the ( )) and closed ( ( )) loop transfer open ( functions given in {62,64}. ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ( ) * * + ( ) ( ) ( * * * + +

between settling time and maximum overshoot. A value that is commonly used to meet this is 0.707; the lowest value for which there is no resonance response for any frequency {67}[12]. For this case, {49} imposes the limitation for the value of and the highest possible value is chosen to obtain the smallest possible settling time {68}. The drivetrain controller gains are then chosen by pole placement on the close loop transfer function, neglecting the effect of the time delays {69-70} * * + +

( )

The robustness of the controller using the gains obtained in {69-70} for the system with the ) maximum expected time delays is first tested using a Root Locus (figure 4a) and then a Bode plot (figure 4b). The Root Locus plot reveals that the gain values selected using pole placement result in a system that is under-damped ( ). With a gain modification of 0.12, the system is reverted to the initially desired damping factor ( ) {7172}. If the time delay is smaller than the maximum values that have been analysed, the system becomes critically damped. The Bode plot reveals that with the gain modification, the controller has an acceptable phase and gain margin of and respectively. )
( )

The effect of the hardware time delay on the drivetrain controller can be analysed by modelling it ( )) using a as its own transfer function ( second order Pade approximation {64-65}[13]. The ( )) can then controller with the time delay ( be modelled as the closed loop transfer function in series with the time delay transfer function {66}. ( )
( )

( ( ( )

)( )( ( )

* *

+ +

( )

( )

As stated in the design specification, the damping ratio will be chosen to offer the best trade-off

Figure 3. Block diagram of: a) Drivetrain plant, b) Drivetrain plant + controller, c) Altitude plant, d) Altitude plant + controller





Figure 4. Drivetrain system a) Bode Plot b) Root Locus Plot

As the drivetrain plant can be modelled with reasonable accuracy, it is possible to implement a feed-forward term to complement the feed-back controller. It will be seen later that this reduces the maximum overshoot from a speed disturbance. The feed-forward controller ( ) is made up of 2 terms. The first term is an applied voltage that is used to match the back EMF of the motor at the trim motor speed. The second term is another applied voltage that is used to match the aerodynamic torque load for varying AOA at the trim motor speed {73-74}.

weight disturbance ( helicopter {79}.

( )

( )) acting on the micro-

( ) )

Feed-back control is used to increase the lift to provide acceleration for changing position as well as to remove error due to the 2 disturbances. It achieves this by varying the rotor blade AOA with respect to altitude error ( ( )) {80}. ( ) ( ) ( ) * +

The altitude plant ( ) is a type 2 second order system, which means that the altitude controller ( ) requires proportional ( ) plus derivative action ( ) to provide a stable controller response {81}. Integral action cannot be easily implemented on this system, as it will result in a negative phase margin. The controller in series with the altitude plant results in the open and closed loop transfer functions given in {82,83}. ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) * +

) *

The exact drivetrain controller values that are used for the Gaui EP-100a are given in {75-77}. * ( ) ( ) 3.6.2 ( ) ( ) * * + + +

Altitude controller design

( )

It is has been seen in section 3.3.2 and 3.5.2 that there are 2 disturbances acting on the altitude plant; weight and quantization. The controller uses an approach of applying a feed-forward AOA term that which is expected to make the rotor generate enough lift to cancel out the weight disturbance {78}. * +

( ) ( )

In reality, the feed-forward term will not perfectly cancel out the weight disturbance due to inaccuracies in the calculations for the lift coefficient. For this controller, it is assumed that the feed-forward term will be calculated to within 10% accuracy of the value required to perfectly cancel out the weight disturbance. It is therefore considered that there is still a reduced modified

Like the drivetrain controller, the time delay of the system is analysed using a Pade approximation {8485}, which is then modelled in series with the closed loop transfer function {86}. ( ) ( ( )( )( * ) ) +

( )

( )

( )

The exact altitude controller values that are used for the Gaui EP-100a are given in {93-94}. ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) * * + +

Type 0 second order systems will have steady state error gains when subject to a disturbance [11]. The magnitude of the steady state error is calculated by taking the limit of error as time goes to infinity {87}.
( )

) * +

Controller discretization

The altitude controller requirement for a steady state error less than 1 can then be achieved by selecting an appropriate value for {88}. It is seen through pole placement that this gain value results in a closed loop bandwidth {90} that is achievable with the selected controller sample time limitations {56-57}{91}. ( )

The two finished controllers are discretized using a zero-pole match algorithm. The discretization uses the time samples given in {48,55}. 3.7.1 Drivetrain controller discretization

The results for the drivetrain controller discretization are given in {95,96}. ( ) * +

( )

+ 3.7.2 Altitude controller discretization

* *

+ +

The results for the altitude controller discretization are given in {97,98}. ( ) * * + +

The altitude controller requirement for no overshoot can then be achieved by selecting a value for through pole placement that results in a critically damped system {91-92}. * +


Non-linear Simulink model

The non-linear model of the micro-helicopter is presented in this report in 3 layers. The first layer, shown in (figure 6a), models the discretized controllers in series with the microhelicopter plant. The two controllers can be simulated operating simultaneously. On this layer the time delays due to the microcontroller sample time is modelled, as well as the voltage and AOA saturation limits, and the quantization and maximum rate of change of the AOA demand. The second layer and third layer, shown in (figure 6b-c), models the kinetics of the micro-helicopter mounted on the test-rig as well as the drivetrain and the aerodynamics.

The robustness of the controller using the gains obtained in {88,91} for the system including time delays is also tested using a Root Locus (figure 5a)and then a Bode plot (figure 5b). The Root Locus plot reveals that no gain modification is required to obtain the desired damping ratio. The Bode plot reveals that the system has a high gain and phase margin of 30dbB and 73.4deg respectively.

Figure 5. Altitude controller a) Root Locus plot b) Bode plot

Before the two discretized controllers are physically implemented, three tests are performed using this non-linear with the Gaui EP-100a and autopilot parameters. Based upon the assumption made in {78}, the aerodynamic drag and lift on the rotor blades is modelled as being of the value that is estimated using TAT. In total 3 simulations are performed; an isolated drivetrain controller test, an isolated altitude test and a simultaneous speed and altitude controller test. 3.8.1 Isolated drivetrain controller simulation

altitude, but its small size means that it doesnt cause concern. Despite the AOA quantization, the simulation results show the controller holding a steady height without any oscillation. 3.8.3 Simultaneous controller simulation

This simulation models the same change in altitude demand as 3.8.2, but with a controlled rather than constant speed (figure 9a-d). No adverse effects are noticed in the altitude response compared to the isolated altitude controller simulation.

4. Results
To demonstrate the physical implementation of the flight controller on the Gaui EP-100a, two tests are performed. In each test, the ESC PPM range is calibrated to operate from 0% battery EMF at pulse length to 100% at pulse length. The first test records the isolated drivetrain controller response to a change in rotor blade AOA from 5 to 10 whilst trying to maintain a constant motor speed of . For this test, the drivetrain controllers response is deliberately restricted to a PPM signal with a maximum pulse length of (an approximate voltage demand of ) as a safety precaution following several hardware failures. The second test records the responses from the speed and altitude controllers running simultaneously. In this test the altitude demand is stepped up from test-rig angle and the speed demand is kept as . In this test the safety precautions are removed and maximum PPM pulse length is . The results from these 2 tests were obtained through serial telemetry between the microcontroller and a laptop computer. The results of these tests are presented in (figure 10a-c) and (figure 11a-f) respectively.

This simulation shows the controller response to a change in rotor AOA from (figure 7a-c) with a constant speed demand of . For comparison the result for the feed-back controller are shown against the feed-back plus feed-forward controller. It is first seen that even for a large step change, the controller response does not suffer from saturation. As expected there is no steady state error and the disturbance is removed in approximately . The feed-forward term alongside the feed-back controller reduces the maximum error by approximately . 3.8.2 Isolated altitude controller simulation

This simulation shows the controller response to a change in altitude demand from test-rig angle with the rotor angular velocity fixed at its trim value (figure 8a-c). The results show that the steady state error of the system is kept below the 1 specification. The AOA response does saturate for short periods of time when rising and falling, but this does not seem to have a negative impact on the controller performance. The controller does show some undesirable overshoot when it is decreasing

Figure 6. Non-linear Simulink model: a) Overview, b) Helicopter Plant, c) Main Rotor

Figure 7. Isolated: a) Drivetrain response, b) Drivetrain error, c) Applied voltage

Figure 8. Isolated: a) Altitude response, b) Altitude error, c) Rotor blade AOA







Figure 9. Simultaneous Altitude and Drivetrain controller: a) Altitude response, b) Altitude error, c) Rotor blade AOA, d) Drivetrain response, e) Drivetrain error, f) Applied voltage







Figure 10. Physical isolated drivetrain controller results: a) Drivetrain response, b) Drivetrain error, c) PPM pulse length, d) Rotor blade AOA





Figure 11. Physical simultaneous controller results: a) Altitude response, b) Altitude error, c) Rotor blade AOA, d) Drivetrain response, e) Drivetrain error, f) PPM pulse length







5. Discussion
5.1 Isolated speed test

The isolated speed test reveals that for the test duration, the controller closely matches the results seen in non-linear simulation3.8.1. The controller maintains a near-zero steady state error and during the AOA step, shows an error with a maximum deviation of 3rad/s which is removed within a 1 second period. Both these results confirm that the controller meets the initial specifications. It is seen that the feed forward voltage term that is applied to counter drag torque is higher than required and causes an increase in velocity during the step. As the test runtime increases the battery which powers the micro-helicopter discharges and the battery EMF decreases. This means that maintaining the same applied voltage across the motor requires the drivetrain controller to increase the PPM pulse length throughout time. An example of this behaviour is observed within the time frame. As the battery drains, the rotor velocity repeatedly begins to fall causing the controllers integral action to increase the pulse length from 1890ppm to 1930ppm. This increase in pulse length is roughly equivalent to a 0.25V decrease in battery EMF or a rate of decrease). Within the duration of the test the battery drain does not cause the EMF to drop beneath the controller demand, and therefore does not present a problem to the controller.

to stalling {41}, quantization of AOA {59} and maximum rate of change of AOA {54}}. Additional non-linearitys that are expected to exist in the real system are; quantization and noise of the angle sensor and coulomb friction in the servo motors and swash-plate linkages. The second observation is that within the time-frame the altitude controller demands the maximum allowable AOA of 15. During this time period the drivetrain controller voltage demand exceeds the batter EMF and it is therefore unable to maintain the rotor trim speed. Consequently, it is seen that the speed drops to approximately . It is also seen that in this same time period the altitude decreases to approximately test-rig angle, suggesting that the lift torque being produced is not enough to balance weight torque. However, at the given rotor velocity and AOA, TAT predicts that the lift torque should be greater than the weight torque. This discrepancy suggests that either the lift/drag-AOA relationship is highly non-linear in the high AOA region, or that stall is occurring before AOA. When the altitude step from occurs at it is observed that the both the altitude and drivetrain controllers performance improve. When the altitude demand is requested, the rotor blade AOA term reduces below stall value, and it is seen that the lift of the micro-helicopter increases. The micro-helicopter rises to the new altitude with a rise time of approximately 2 seconds. At the higher altitude, the test-rig angle is held with a maximum error of . Due to the noise in the system the controller does not reach a steady state. At the lower rotor blade AOA value the PPM signal required to maintain trim speed also decreases and the drivetrain controller is again able to increase the rotor speed to trim value. At this point the drivetrain controller holds the speed value with an oscillating error with a maximum magnitude of approximately .

5.2 Simultaneous controller test

The first observation to be made about the simultaneous controller test is that compared to the simulation in 3.8.2 the real altitude controller response is very noisy. This behaviour suggests that limit cycle oscillation is occurring in the real system due to non-linearitys that were not considered in the simulation [12]. The simulations performed considered the following non linearitys; saturated AOA at

5.3 Recommendations for future work

One of the underlying problems with the autopilot seems to be that it suffers from non-linear lift


coefficients at high AOA. As this report was concerned with designing a controller for a general helicopter no lift tests were performed on the Gaui EP-100s specific rotor blades. In future it is recommended that such a test is performed to accurately predict the AOA when stall will occur. It would also be recommended that the controller design procedure is repeated with a lower trim AOA coupled with a higher trim rotor velocity to reduce the chance of stalling. A second recommendation would be to model the extra non-linearitys mentioned in 5.2 to try and replicate the limit cycle that was observed in the physical system. Additionally it would be recommended that low noise transmission is added to any future altitude controller design specification. Although the test-rig used in this report was simple to implement, it doesnt perfectly replicate a microhelicopters altitude DOF due to the varying weight torque. Given more time and budget, a third recommendation is that this test rig be replaced with one which allows the micro-helicopter to fly vertically rather than through a circular arc. This will

allow any future design to be more easily implemented on a 6dof micro-helicopter without modification.

6. Conclusion
In this report a linearized mathematical model of a micro-helicopter mounted on a test-rig has been derived for the purpose of supporting the design of an altitude autopilot. A non-linear model of the same system has been written in Simulink to simulate the autopilots response to change in altitude demand. These two models have been validated by being used to design the altitude autopilot for a Gaui EP100 micro-helicopter. This autopilot has been physically and has shown impressive isolated drivetrain controller results. The results of the test involving the drivetrain and altitude controllers running simultaneously has shown some design choice and modelling errors, and has been used to suggest future refinements which are expected to yield a high performance autopilot.

Appendix 1. Gaui EP-100 parameters
Parameter Value 4800 85% 15 200 16/120 145 20 2.7X10-6 900 Unit ~ ~ V W ~ mm mm Kg m2 Mm

Appendix 2. Labelled photograph of Gaui EP-100a

Rotor Swashplate Servo Motor Cantilever Microcontroller Battery BLDC Motor ESC

Appendix 3. Swash-plate analysis

Appendix 4. Electronic schematic diagram

Abbreviation PID AOA SISO ESC BLDC TAT CCPM PPM (S),(Z) Extended Proportional-integralderivative Angle of attack Single-input-single-output Electronic speed controller Brushless direct current Thin aerofoil theory Cyclic / collective pitch mixing Pulse position modulation Analysis in the laplace / discrete time domain Kinetics Angular velocity of motor shaft/rotor shaft Trim angular velocity of motor shaft/rotor shaft Angle of test rig test-rig relative to horizontal Inertia of entire gearing system at motor/isolated motor/isolated hinged rotor blade/isolated gear cog Inertia of micro-helicopter and test-rig about pivot Rotor-motor gearing ratio Mass of micro-helicopter/ test-rig rod Torque exerted about the test-rig rod pivot by lift/weight Aerodynamics Rotor blade AOA/trim rotor blade AOA Coefficient of lift/drag for a single rotor blade Parasite drag coefficient Rotor blade Oswalds efficiency Rotor blade aspect ratio Lift/drag torque exerted by a single rotor blade Number of rotor blades Dimensions Rotor blade chord/length Distance from the inner edge of each Rotor blade to the element being considered Distance from the rotor shaft to the inner edge of each Rotor blade


Definition Universal constants

Acceleration due to gravity Atmospheric air density BLDC motor Applied voltage/back EMF Current Electrical resistance Power efficiency Manufacture specified speed coefficient/back EMF coefficient/torque coefficient Torque applied by motor/loaded on motor/net Mechanical/electrical power

Length of test-rig rod Control Controller sample frequency of general/drivetrain/ altitude controller General controller settling time Closed loop damping ratio for general/drivetrain/altitude controller Speed sensor time period Discretized controller sample time for general/drivetrain/altitude controller Closed loop bandwidth frequency of general/drivetrain/altitude controller Time delay acting on drivetrain controller Time delay acting on drivetrain controller due to speed sensor characteristic / microprocessor sample time Time delay acting on altitude controller Drivetrain / altitude controller transfer function Drivetrain controller proportional / integral gain Drivetrain controller modified proportional / integral gain altitude controller proportional / differential gain Altitude controller modified proportional / differential gain Angular motor velocity / angle error Drivetrain/altitude plant transfer function Open / closed loop transfer function of drivetrain plant plus controller

Open / closed loop transfer function altitude plant plus controller Transfer function of time delays on drivetrain/altitude controller Closed loop transfer function of drivetrain plant / altitude plant in series with their respective time delays Disturbance on altitude controller due to weight/quantization of AOA

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