Autonomous Systems


Optimal control of a hydrofoil boat

HYDROS, the Swiss scientific research center specialized in sailing, is holding an engineering competition to take place in lake Léman, summer of 2017 (see contestpromo video). The goal is the construction of an energy efficient hydrofoil boat. EPFL has forged a group of teams that specialize on optimizing each of the specific components of the system. LA is responsible for the dynamical modeling of the boat in order to plan effective trajectories and track them in the face of uncertainties.

We’re looking to build a team of students with diverse backgrounds, including robotics, mechatronic systems, electronics and computer science. The main goal is to develop advanced autonomous flight control and pilot-assistance systems. Various topics include:

  • Identification: The dynamics of a boat with hydrodynamic support is inherently nonlinear and very complex due to numerous hydrodynamic effects. Having a reliable mathematical model is crucial for control algorithms design and flight simulation. We, therefore, would start with designing experiments and collecting flight data during piloted tests. The dynamic optimisation approach will be then employed to estimate hydrodynamic coefficients of the foil.
  • State Estimation: The current flight control algorithm only makes use of roll, pitch rates and height information. In a fully autonomous mode accurate estimation of the longitudinal and lateral velocities, as well as position is very important. For that reason, the Multiplicative (Quaternion-based) Extended Kalman algorithm and a generic embeddable implementation in C++ were developed. The goal is to continue the integration of the framework in the boat control system and extend the existing code with new numerical techniques (Unscented KF, robust predictors and so on).
  • Optimal Control: The goal is to design and implement a pilot-assisting optimal control algorithm. At first, the performance of the Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR) should be analysed on the real boat. If time will allow, a real-time implementation Nonlinear Model Predictive Control algorithm based on the toolbox developed in the lab will be tested in simulation and in a flight test.

Requirements: System and Control Theory, experience with C++ and Matlab (or Python), experience with the PixHawk firmware. Knowledge of ROS and mathematical optimisation will be a big plus.

Professor : Colin Jones
Type of project: Semester / Master
Contact:   Petr Listov 



Control of an aerial manipulator

So far, multicopters have been used mostly for passively interacting with the environment (video recording, aerial mapping, environmental monitoring, etc.). These capabilities could be extended for physical interaction, as envisioned by the Horizon 2020 AEROWORKS project, by implementing aerial robotic workers performing infrastructure inspection and maintenance tasks under high-level supervision of human operators. In this framework, the flying platform is now considered as a floating base for a manipulator arm.

The Control Engineering Group at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU), Sweden, has already developed prototypes of light-weight aerial manipulators that can be carried on a commercially available hexacopter (see picture).

This project involves:

  •  Maintain a knowledge base about aerial manipulation.
  • Contribute in developing the aerial manipulator.
  • Design novel control schemes for operating the aerial manipulator mounted on the flying platform in a unified fashion.
  • Implement it in a modular manner through ROS so that the code can be first validated in simulation and then directly ported to the real platform for experiments.

Requirements: Matlab, C/C++, ROS (or willingness to learn), motivation!

This project will be carried out at LTU. More info will be provided on contact.

Professor: Colin Jones
Type of project: Master
Contact:  Colin Jones


Fast Toy Lab – Design of micro-scale cars for automatic racing

The Fast Toy Lab is developing a high-speed, micro-scale autonomous course for small-scale RC cars. We are aiming at producing extremely fast and tiny cars and controllers capable of racing against all comers!
This project will design a autonomous car for racing task based on a new 1:27 scale Min-Z car. The student will integrate an IMU board for communication and control onto the Min-Z car and identify the model of the modified car.

Followings are the possible steps for the project:

  1. Survey literatures for race car design.
  2. Integrate IMU board (for communication and control) and encoders to the car.
  3. Identify the model for the new 4-wheel driven car and develop simulation platform.
  4. Investigate control strategies, if time permits.

Requirements: Knowledge of Control Theory and Electronics and Matlab

Professor: Colin Jones
Type of project: Master or Semester
Contact:  Shukla Harsh Ambarishkumar


Identification and control for riderless motorcycles

Controlling a riderless motorcycle is a challenging task as the dynamics are highly nonlinear and non-minimum phase. Moreover, suspension or chain pull effect make the dynamics more complicated to model accurately.

In the first phase of this project, we will focus on hardware and software design for the autonomous control of a real Thunder Tiger motorcycle.

After that, based on simulations and literature, we will investigate the proper modelling of a motorcycle. The next task will be to perform system identification experiments. In the last phase, we will design and compare different controllers that will be implemented on the Thunder Tiger motorcycle.

Skills: Matlab, Control systems, System Identification and enthusiasm !

Professor: Colin Jones
Type of project: Semester or Master
Contact:  Luca Fabietti and Shukla Harsh Ambarishkumar