Intelligent control of unmanned aerial vehicles for improved autonomy and reliability

George Vachtsevanos, Liang Tang, Graham Drozeski, Luis Gutierrez

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This paper reviews aspects of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) autonomy as suggested by the Autonomous Control Logic chart of the U.S. DoD UAV Autonomy Roadmap; levels of vehicle autonomy addressed through intelligent control practices and a hierarchical/intelligent control architecture is presented for UAVs. Basic modules of the control hierarchy and their enabling technologies are reviewed; of special interest, from an intelligent control perspective, are the middle and high echelons of the hierarchy. Here, mission planning, trajectory generation and vehicle navigation routines are proposed for the highest level. At the middle level, the control role is portrayed by mode transitioning, envelope protection, real-time adaptation and fault detection/control reconfiguration algorithms which are intended to safeguard the UAV's integrity in the event of component failures, extreme operating conditions or external disturbances. The UAV thus exhibits attributes of robustness and operational reliability assuring a satisfactory degree of autonomy. The control technologies are demonstrated through flight testing results and the paper concludes with brief remarks on recent research directions regarding coordinated/cooperative control of multiple UAVs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-861
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes
EventIFAC/EURON Symposium on Intelligent Autonomous Vehicles - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 5 Jul 20047 Jul 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the support received from Dr. John. S. Bay, DARPA, and Mr. William Koenig, AFRL. In addition, the authors would like to thank their Co-P.I.'s on this research project: Dr. J.V.R. Prasad, School of Aerospace Engineering, and Drs. Linda Wills and Bonnie Heck, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Tech; and Mr. Bryan Doerr, Mr. Brian Mendel, and Mr. James L. Paunicka, Boeing Phantom Works.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Adaptive control
  • Autonomous vehicle
  • Cooperative control
  • Fault detection
  • Fault tolerant control
  • Flight control
  • Intelligent control


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