UCLA researchers in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering have developed a novel system to allow an unmanned aerial vehicle to assume any orientation or position in three-dimensional space, with the use of fully actuated propellers.
Traditional unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as remote-controlled helicopters, multi-rotors, and quadcopters are “under actuated” systems in that they possess fewer control inputs than available degrees of freedom. Under-actuation limits the flying ability of such vehicles by limiting the range of attainable maneuvers and precludes the possibility of achieving and maintaining any arbitrary orientation. To allow for full orientation control, it is necessary to develop an alternative mechanical and actuation method to fully control an unmanned aerial vehicle with six or more degrees of freedom.
The inventors have developed a system to fully control the orientation and position of an unmanned aerial vehicle with use of fully actuated propellers. An onboard power system and an onboard control system power and control actuators to independently or cooperatively control the direction and magnitude of generated thrust vectors along any arbitrary direction without joint limitation. This could result in an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of assuming any orientation in three-dimensional space. The concept may be applied to any multi-rotor type unmanned aerial vehicle regardless of the number of propellers.
A fully functional prototype have been developed with off-board power capability, with plans to make it onboard in the near future.