Mathematical Models for Unstable Unmanned Helicopter Dynamics using an Autopilot – October 2011 Flight Trial, Data Acquisition, Model Development and Analysis


  1. Trentini, M.
  2. Fenrick, D.
  3. Desgagnés, R.
  4. Anderson, D.
  5. Monckton, S.
  6. Hui, K.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Suffield, Ralston ALTA (CAN)
Defence R&D Canada – Suffield is investigating the feasibility of using a lightweight rotorcraft unmanned aerial vehicle with sufficient payload capacity to deliver an autonomous field resupply capability. Under this project, a modified ultralight helicopter has been equipped with actuators and computer control to deliver unmanned flight capability. It has also been fitted with sensors and data acquisition hardware to record flight test data. Using a technique called parameter estimation, flight test data from a prescribed set of manoeuvres conducted to excite the dynamic modes of a helicopter can be collected, processed, and used to develop and validate a mathematical model of the helicopter dynamics. Parameter estimation was originally developed for manned aircraft and poses some challenges for use in unmanned systems. In a previous effort, collection of flight test data using a radio-control pilot was attempted, but, unfortunately, the pilot was unable to maintain fine enough control to permit capture of the full helicopter dynamics information. Stability analysis of the partial data collected suggested that the helicopter dynamics are gradually divergent, such that the data collection manoeuvres could occur in an open loop manner before instability occurs. In the most recent phase of the flight trials, the duties of the radio-control pilot were replaced by the onboard autopilot, with the required flight test manoeuvres carried out by scripted behaviours. The flight test

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unmanned aerial vehicle;uav;helicopter;model;stability;flight control algorithms
Report Number
DRDC-SUFFIELD-TM-2011-241 — Technical Memorandum
Date of publication
01 Dec 2011
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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