Long-Endurance, Autonomous Vehicle Control

Period of Performance: 08/06/2003 - 02/02/2004


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Princeton Satellite Systems
6 Market St. Suite 926
Plainsboro, NJ 08536
Principal Investigator


This proposal is for an innovative guidance and control system to enable long-endurance, autonomous control of high-altitude airships (HAA). The proposed system incorporates two significant innovations: 1) reconfigurable flight software, and 2) online trajectory optimization. The complete control system is organized as a modular network of software agents. The guidance law will apply a trajectory optimization approach onboard the vehicle, enabling the autonomous computation of minimum-energy / minimum-time solutions. The agent-based guidance and control system will be designed to run within the Princeton Satellite Systems' (PSS) ObjectAgent architecture. Agents may be added, removed or replaced during flight to increase mission flexibility and robustness. This level of reconfigurability exceeds the state-of-the-art in traditional flight software, and extends the autonomous capability of the control system. Performing online trajectory optimization enables minimum-energy / minimum-time solutions to be found for the desired path of the HAA in the face of changing weather conditions and evolving vehicle performance. Together, these innovative techniques will establish an effective, adaptable control system that can provide autonomous yet interactive control over long periods of time. Anticipated bennefits of the proposed solution include: * an important analysis of the basic performance capabilities of HAA's subject to various design parameters and atmospheric conditions * autonomous flight software that may be closely monitored and/or modified during flight * the ability to repetitively perform point-to-point maneuvering in either a time-optimal or energy-optimal manner, with little involvement from the ground. The key commercial applications is a complete framework for the analysis, design and implementation of control algorithms for high-altitude airships.