Theory and Applications for Control of Aerial Robots in Physical Interaction Through Tethers

TitleTheory and Applications for Control of Aerial Robots in Physical Interaction Through Tethers
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsTognon, M, Franchi, A
Series TitleSpringer Tracts in Advanced Robotics
Date Published07/2020
ISBN Number978-3-030-48659-4

This book focuses on the study of autonomous aerial robots interacting with the surrounding environment, and in particular on the design of new control and motion planning methods for such systems. Nowadays, autonomous aerial vehicles are extensively employed in many fields of application but mostly as autonomously moving sensors used only to sense the environment. On the other hand, in the recent field of aerial physical interaction, the goal is to go beyond sensing-only applications and to fully exploit aerial robots capabilities in order to interact with the environment, exchanging forces for pushing/pulling/sliding, and manipulating objects. However, due to the different nature of the problems, new control methods are needed. These methods have to preserve the system stability during the interaction and to be robust against external disturbances, finally enabling the robot to perform a given task. Moreover, researchers and engineers need to face other challenges generated by the high complexity of aerial manipulators, e.g., a large number of degrees of freedom, strong nonlinearities, and actuation limits. Furthermore, trajectories of the aerial robots have to be carefully computed using motion planning techniques. To perform the sough task in a safe way, the planned trajectory must avoid obstacles and has to be suitable for the dynamics of the system and its actuation limits. With the aim of achieving the previously mentioned general goals, this book considers the analysis of a particular class of aerial robots interacting with the environment: tethered aerial vehicles. The study of particular systems, still encapsulating all the challenges of the general problem, helps on acquiring the knowledge and the expertise for a subsequent development of more general methods applicable to aerial physical interaction. This work focuses on the thorough formal analysis of tethered aerial vehicles ranging from control and state estimation to motion planning. In particular, the differential flatness property of the system is investigated, finding two possible sets of flat outputs that reveal new capabilities of such a system. One contains the position of the vehicle and the link internal force (equivalently the interaction force with the environment), while the second contains the position and a variable linked to the attitude of the vehicle. This shows new control and physical interaction capabilities different from standard aerial robots in contact-free flight. In particular, the first set of flat outputs allows realizing one of the first “free-floating” versions of the classical hybrid force-motion control for standard grounded manipulators. Based on these results we designed two types of controllers. The first is an easy-to-implement controller based on a hierarchical approach. Although it shows good performance in quasi-static conditions, actually the tracking error increases when tracking a dynamic trajectory. Thus, a second controller more suited for tracking problems has been designed based on the dynamic feedback linearization technique. Two observers, for the 3D and 2D environments, respectively, have been designed in order to close the control loop using a minimal sensorial setup. We showed that the tether makes possible to retrieve an estimation of the full state from only an IMU plus three encoders for the 3D case, while from just an IMU for the 2D case. Parts of those results were extended to a novel and original multi-robots case as well. We considered a multi-tethered system composed of two aerial robots linked to the ground and to each other by two links. The theoretical results on generic tethered aerial vehicles were finally employed to solve the practical and challenging problem of landing and takeoff on/from a sloped surface, enhancing the robustness and reliability of the maneuvers with respect to the contact-free flight solution.

Citation Key2020g-TogFra
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