The research objective of this award is to develop a framework for estimation of motion states and uncertain external inputs for feedback control of unmanned vehicles operating in poorly known environments. This framework will specifically address uncertainties due to uncertain external inputs, sensor noise in motion sensors, and time delay in feedback control. A global treatment of vehicle dynamics will make it possible to estimate and control the motion of rapidly maneuvering vehicles in the presence of uncertainties. The estimation schemes are deterministic, but approximate the underlying probability density function describing the uncertainty in the dynamics of the vehicle. A robust control scheme using the estimates of states and uncertain inputs in the presence of bounded time-delay will be formulated to stabilize and control the vehicle. A computational algorithm, based on a discrete-time interpretation of mechanics, will be used to implement the estimation and control schemes in real-time. Deliverables include software implementations of the components of this framework, documentation of research results, and engineering student education.
The proposed research will directly impact applications of unmanned systems in poorly known environments. Example applications include space exploration, satellite geodesy, data gathering from tropical storms, underwater pipeline leak detection, and search and rescue missions. Software made possible through this research will offer improvements to the reliability of unmanned systems used in such applications. In particular, results from this research will (1) improve characterization of uncertain inputs affecting the motion of unmanned vehicles, (2) enable the unmanned vehicle to learn and adapt to the uncertainties in its environment, and (3) characterize and exploit time delay in motion control. Graduate and undergraduate engineering students will benefit through classroom instruction and involvement in the research. An educational website will be developed to disseminate research results to students, experts, and the community at large.