Challenges in Aerospace Controls


  • Naira Hovakimyan
  • Zhihua Qu
  • Ilya V. Kolmanovsky
  • Wen-hua Chen
  • Venanzio Cichella
  • Dimitra Panagou
  • Radhakant Padhi
  • Richard A. Hull
  • Sankalp Bhan
  • Gopalakrishnan Renganathan


  • Naira Hovakimyan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
  • Zhihua Qu, University of Central Florida, Orlando, USA
  • Ilya Kolmanovsky, The University of Michigan, USA
  • Wen-Hua Chen, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
  • Sankalp K. Bhan,The Boeing Company, St.Louis, Missouri, USA
  • Venanzio Cichella, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  • Gopalakrishnan Renganathan, K. Ramakrishnan College of Engineering, Tamilnadu, India
  • Radhakant Padhi, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
  • Richard A. Hull, Collins Aerospace, Orlando, Florida, USA


This one day workshop will focus on meeting challenges in Aerospace Control systems that are having an impact on society. The workshop will be presented by leading control systems experts from industry and academia that are involved in some of the most exciting research and development efforts in the field of Aerospace. This workshop is intended for students and professors in search of current applications in need of solutions as well as industry and government professionals interested in potential solutions from academia and adjacent branches of the aerospace industry. This workshop is sponsored and presented by members of the IEEE CSS Technical Committee on Aerospace Controls whose purpose is to help build an international scientific community and promote awareness of outstanding achievements in the field of Aerospace Controls. In this offering the workshop will present a number of current topics related to the intelligent control and optimal guidance of unmanned air vehicles (UAV’s), spacecraft, and aerial co-robots. The workshop will offer opportunities for questions and answers, and provide an open forum for discussion of applications for current theoretical advances and potential enabling technologies. The proceeds from this workshop will be donated by the organizers and presenters to help fund the annual IEEE Control System Society Award for Technical Excellence in Aerospace Control.




Aerial Co-robots of the Future: Safety, Intelligence, Certification, Naira Hovakimyan

This presentation discusses the key challenges of the 21st century and puts the right perspective for development of aerial co-robots of the future by emphasizing safety, intelligence and certification. Each of these three pillars hinge on fundamental theoretical developments for support. Challenges with flight control, cyber-resilience, cooperative path planning, intelligent control, and certification are discussed, and fundamental limitations of feedback loops are revisited for development of safe intelligent control. The fourth industrial revolution challenges new paradigms for certification. Applications in elderly care, scalable e-commerce, and precision agriculture are discussed.

Design of Secure, Spatially-Distributed, Data-Driven Control/Optimization Algorithms, Zhihua Qu

Many modern applications deal with control and optimization of spatially-distributed, interconnected and nonlinear systems. For such large-scale systems, stability analysis and control designs could become too overwhelming. To address such challenges, a hierarchical yet modular framework of analysis and design is presented. At the local level, distributed control algorithms can be synthesized separately for individual nonlinear heterogeneous systems so they can be operated according to network-enabled cooperative control and optimization. Their nonlinear behaviors as well as their algebraic and/or dynamic interactions can be quantified for a higher-level system/subsystem-wide design and optimization. These controls can be made robust against potential attacks by incorporating dynamic security algorithms of competitive interaction and nonlinear encoding.

Drift Counteraction Optimal Control for Aerospace Applications, Ilya Kolmanovsky

Motivated by practical aerospace applications, deterministic and stochastic model predictive control (MPC) formulations suitable for counteracting system drift or the effect of large disturbances will be highlighted. In drift counteraction optimal control the objective is to maximize the time or yield until the system trajectory exits a prescribed set, defined by system safety constraints, operating limits and/or efficiency requirements. Thus there are no set-points or commands to be tracked but only constraints. Model predictive control (MPC) formulations, based on mixed integer or conventional linear programming, can lead to effective solutions for higher order systems than possible with dynamic programming and value iterations based methods. Such solutions can be applicable to fuel optimal Geostationary Orbit (GEO) station keeping, spacecraft Low Earth Orbit (LEO) maintenance, under-actuated spacecraft attitude control, and glider flight management. The presentation will cover theory, computations and potential aerospace applications of drift counteraction optimal control.

Gust Alleviation of Small Scale Unmanned Aerial Vehicles using Nonlinear Disturbance Observer Techniques, Wen-Hua Chen

Small scale unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) (e.g. mini or even smaller micro/nano UAVs) benefited from their small size and light weight are man-portable flying machines suitable for close-in support in contested, cluttered environment. Gust tolerance and alleviation is important for the survivability and the safe operation of this kind of UAV. This presentation will first introduce the nonlinear disturbance observer based control technique, where a nonlinear disturbance observer is designed to estimate external disturbance and the influence of uncertainty and then a compensation mechanism is designed based on the feed forward strategy. Both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft will be considered in this presentation, with the support of video clips of indoor and outdoor flight tests.

Real-time Optimal Guidance of Trajectories, Sankalp K. Bhan

Optimal real-time guidance towards moving targets remains a challenging problem. Often, dynamic heat and load limitations constrain a path, and actuation limits restrict the inputs. These path constraints drive a need for algorithms which accurately and efficiently calculate feasible, optimal trajectories. In this talk, we present a method to solve these problems, a fusion of perturbation feedback control and iterative optimal control synthesis. First, this method iteratively seeks a feasible trajectory, and then, it minimizes the cost of candidate feasible trajectories. We present these techniques with an illustrative example.

Planning Strategies for Multiple UAV Missions, Venanzio Cichella

Advances in technology and network solutions have enabled operations of multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). To enable safe deployment of groups of UAVs, these vehicles must be capable of performing missions in a cooperative fashion to achieve common objectives. During these missions, the vehicles must be able to operate safely and execute coordinated tasks in complex, highly uncertain environments while maneuvering in close proximity to each other and to obstacles. Motivated by these ideas, the first part of this talk will introduce and discuss some challenges for the safe operation of multiple UAVs missions in real-world environments. I will focus in particular on the problem of enabling multiple vehicles to perform desired missions in cooperative ways, including the design of motion control strategies for UAVs that cooperate with human pilots.

Digitization and Control of Unmanned Aerospace Vehicles, Gopalakrishnan Renganathan

Marching into new horizons, developments in Aerospace Control have been massive, whereas the older techniques are being outdated. Looking toward the next generation, the aircraft manufacturers have been setting priorities and developing new technologies in modernizing the aircraft industry. There has been a steep increase in digitization with the help of new technology developments like Robotics, Automated systems, Artificial intelligence (AI), Augmented & Virtual reality (AR/VR), advanced sensors and IoTs. These technologies are being employed to take the command and control of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to next level. This presentation will discuss some of the technical challenges and risks facing the industry in this exciting transition.

Nonlinear Optimal Guidance using Model Predictive Static Programming, Radhakant Padhi

Even though many challenging real-life problems can be formulated in the framework of nonlinear optimal control theory, the classical calculus of variations approach often leads to a two-point boundary value problem which it is not a viable tool for online applications. One such promising technique is the recently-developed Model Predictive Static Programming (MPSP), which broadly falls under the fast model predictive control (MPC) paradigm. Several challenging real-life guidance problems in aerospace such as launch vehicle guidance and guidance for lunar soft-landing will be discussed to demonstrate the generality and usefulness of the recently developed (and still evolving) MPSP guidance technique

Novel Guidance Solutions and Nonlinear Control, Richard A. Hull

This presentation will discuss applications of robust nonlinear control design to compensate for uncertain nonlinear aerodynamics, and present an update to the Generalized Explicit optimal guidance law. A hypothetical guided simulation model is presented with polynomial aerodynamics and mass properties suitable for academic guidance and control studies.