Real-time shape estimation for a flexible unmanned air vehicle via kalman filtering

Aditya Kotikalpudi, Brian Danowsky, David K. Schmidt, Christopher Regan, Peter Seiler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


As modern aircraft designs with flexible airframes become susceptible to dynamic coupling between rigid body and structural modes, challenges in aircraft design, modeling, and control increase significantly. Active modal suppression control is required to ensure dynamic stability across desired flight envelope. Closed-loop shape control, which takes advantage of the airframe flexibility to optimize aerodynamic shape for minimal drag, is also an important technology to be developed. One of the critical pieces of technology required for structural mode and shape control is shape estimation of the structure in real-time, which can serve as a feedback signal. In this paper, a Kalman filter-based shape estimation approach for a small flying wing unmanned air vehicle (UAV) is described. The UAV features a set of distributed sensors including small, light-weight inertial measurement units (IMUs) along its wings and center-body, as well as cameras that record and process visual information on wing-tip deflections. A linear Kalman Filter is designed using a linear aeroelastic vehicle-dynamic model for state propagation and IMU measurement data for measurement updates. The filter estimates wing-tip deflection and twist while camera data, which is available at a different sampling rate and is independent of the theoretical model, is used for validating the estimation. Data obtained from flight tests conducted for system identification purposes are used to validate the performance of the filter. Finally, blended estimates of wing-tip heave and twist are obtained via weighted averaging of filter estimates and visual data from the cameras.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA Scitech 2020 Forum
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781624105951
StatePublished - 2020
EventAIAA Scitech Forum, 2020 - Orlando, United States
Duration: Jan 6 2020Jan 10 2020

Publication series

NameAIAA Scitech 2020 Forum
Volume1 PartF


ConferenceAIAA Scitech Forum, 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was conducted as part of a multi-year NASA Research Announcement (NRA) program (contract number NNX14AL36A) led by the University of Minnesota with Systems Technology, Inc., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, D.K. Schmidt and Associates, CMSoft, Inc., and Aurora Flight Sciences. The authors would like to acknowledge all partners as well as NASA for valuable technical support, resources, and funding. Mr. John Bosworth and Dr. Jeff Ouellette have served as the NASA Technical Monitors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA. All rights reserved.


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