Robust control of a small-scale supercavitating vehicle: From modeling to testing

David Escobar Sanabria, Roger E.A. Arndt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


By traveling inside a gas cavity, a supercavitating vehicle can reduce hydrodynamic drag, increase speed, and minimize power consumption. The main challenge for controlling a supercavitating vehicle is a nonlinear force that arises when the vehicle back-end pierces the cavity. This force, referred to as planing, leads to oscillatory motion and instability. In an effort to develop robust control technologies for supercavitating vehicles, we developed and tested a control methodology for a small-scale system capable of freely rotating about its pitch axis in a high-speed water tunnel. We constructed a low-order nonlinear model of the longitudinal vehicle motion that is based on experimental observations and physical principles. By using this model, we developed a controller design method that delivers a proof of performance in the face of nonlinear and uncertain planing forces. Experiments with the vehicle prototype in the water tunnel suggest that the proposed control technique ensured higher performance when the uncertain planing dynamics are considered in the control synthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-424
Number of pages13
JournalOcean Engineering
StatePublished - Jul 15 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is dedicated to the memory of Professor Gary J. Balas. We would like to thank Prof. Peter Seiler for his technical recommendations and to Devin Vollmer for his contributions to the experimental facilities. We acknowledge the support by the U.S. Office of Naval Research under Contract N00014-12-1-0058 , project title: Development of Control Strategies for Very High Speed Cavity-Running Bodies: Simulations and Small-Scale Experiments. Dr. R. Joslin was the contract monitor.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Experimental validation
  • Nonlinear systems
  • Robust control
  • Supercavitating vehicle
  • Vehicle modeling


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