Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics
Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) have increased in popularity in recent years. The most common platform, the quadrotor, has surpassed other MAVs like traditional helicopters and ornithopters in popularity mainly due to their simplicity. Yet the quadrotor design is a century old and was intended to carry people. We set out to design a MAV that is designed specifically to be a MAV, i.e. a vehicle not intended to carry humans as a payload. With this constraint lifted the vehicle can continuously rotate, which would dizzy a human, can sustain larger forces, which would damage a human, or can take advantage of scaling properties, where it may not work at human scale. Furthermore, we aim for simplicity by removing vehicle controllers and reducing the number of actuators, such that the vehicle can be made cost effective, if not disposable.
We begin by studying general equations of motion for hovering MAVs. We search for vehicle configurations that exhibit passive stability, allowing the MAV to operate without a controller or actuators to apply control, ideally a single actuator. The analysis suggests two distinct types of passively stabilized MAVs and we create test vehicles for both.
With simple hovering achieved, we concentrate on controlled motion with an emphasis on doing so without adding actuators. We find we can attain three degree of freedom control using separation of time scales with our actuator via low frequency for control in the vertical direction and high frequency for control in the horizontal plane. We explore techniques for achieving high frequency actuator control, which also allow the compensation of motor defects, specifically cogging torque.
We combine passive stability with the motion control into two vehicles, UNO and Piccolissimo. UNO, the Underactuated-propeller Naturally-stabilized One-motor vehicle, demonstrates the capabilities of simple vehicles by performing maneuvers like conventional quadrotors. Piccolissimo, Italian for “very little”, demonstrates the merits of passive stability and single actuator control by being the smallest, self-powered, controllable MAV.
Piccoli, Matthew Piccoli, "Passive Stability And Actuation Of Micro Aerial Vehicles" (2016). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 2529.