Controller Tuning Apparatus for Small Unmanned Autonomous Helicopter

UAH-P-14005-Controller Tuning Apparatus for Small Unmanned Autonomous Helicopters

Docket: UAH-P-14005


Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) control is a challenging problem that combines control with aerodynamics. Due to their inherent instability, nonlinearity, non-minimum phase behavior, and aerodynamic complexity, unmanned vehicles—particularly helicopters—present significant challenges during the control design and implementation phases. In-flight tuning of control parameters can be difficult and risky, while computer simulation is not as robust as real flight tests. An intermediate step in testing would mitigate the cons of simulation and in-flight tuning.

Researchers at UAH have developed a novel Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL) apparatus design for small autonomous helicopters. This design provides a safe and low-cost platform to implement control algorithms in real-time and tune the control gains in a controlled environment. Specifically, it allows for testing the robustness of the controller to external disturbances during the operation by emulating the hover condition. This apparatus is capable of testing the helicopters in hover as well as on any smooth trajectories such as cruise flight, figure-8, etc.

This technology fills the gap between simulation and real flight tests. It can significantly reduce the control implementation and tuning costs of small unmanned autonomous helicopters by allowing implementation issues on the real hardware to be tested before real flight tests in a safe, controlled environment.


  • Unmanned aerial systems
  • Aerial surveillance
  • Search and rescue
  • Hazard inspection and detection


  • Safe and reliable
  • Reduces control tuning and hardware implementation costs
  • Controlled in-flight testing


  • State of Development: Proof of concept
  • Licensing Status: Available for licensing
  • Patent Status: Patent Pending