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The Design, Control and Autopilot of Quadrotor Helicopter

Lab: Center of Aero Innovation & Realization for Students, School of Aerospace, Tsinghua University
Mentor: Associate Professor Haixin Chen, Associate Professor Chunhua Hu

Quadrotor helicopter is a novel kind of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aerocraft. It has four fix pitch propellers and a feedback controller. We can control a quadorotor’s attitude and movement by separately control the speed of the propellers. Quadrotor is a kind of unstable system, so it must have a feedback controller which has sensors to read quadorotor’s attitude and control the speed of propellers to make sure the stability of the system. Comparing to helicopter, the flight control algorithm of quadrotor is relatively simple, so it’s suitable for testing autopilot algorithm of VTOL aerocraft.

In this project I independently designed the hardware and software of the prototype. It has an ARM-based controller (STMicroelectronics 32-bit STM32 microcontroller), an IMU, a wireless communication module, a GPS antenna and a supersonic rangefinder. It can do some autopilot job, such as auto-take-off, auto-landing, hover, fly to a single waypoint, and so on. My co-workers also studied the dynamic model of quadrotor, developed a MATLAB program to simulate the flight, which helped me to design the PID controller.

Now the second prototype is being built. The prototype will have two controllers (High-level control and Low-level control). The High-level controller has 1GHz Cortex-A8 ARM processor, 512MB RAM and 1GB flash storage, which has similar performance to early version iPad. Embedded Linux and other libraries (such as OpenCV computer vision library) will be transplanted on it. Camera and Laser Radar will be used to navigate the quadrotor.

Download: Demonstrated manned flight video (WMV, 4.4MB)