Loughborough University
Thesis-2016-Coombes.pdf (47.2 MB)

Landing site reachability and decision making for UAS forced landings

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posted on 2016-05-05, 15:25 authored by Matthew Coombes
After a huge amount of success within the military, the benefits of the use of unmanned aerial systems over manned aircraft is obvious. They are becoming cheaper and their functions advancing to such a point that there is now a large drive for their use by civilian operators. However there are a number of significant challenges that are slowing their inevitable integration into the national airspace systems of countries. A large array of emergency situations will need to be dealt with autonomously by contingency management systems to prevent potentially deadly incidences. One such emergency situation that will need autonomous intervention, is the total loss of thrust from engine failure. The complex multi faceted task of landing the stricken aircraft at a potentially unprepared site is called a forced landing. This thesis presents methods to address a number of critical parts of a forced landing system for use by an unmanned aerial system. In order for an emergency landing site to be considered, it needs to be within glide range. In order to find a landing site s reachability from the point of engine failure the aircraft s glide performance and a glide path must be known. A method by which to calculate the glide performance, both from aircraft parameters or experiments is shown. These are based on a number of steady state assumptions to make them generic and quick to compute. Despite the assumptions, these are shown to have reasonable accuracy. A minimum height loss path to the landing site is defined, which takes account of a steady uniform wind. While this path is not the path to be flown it enables a measure of how reachable a landing site is, as any extra height the aircraft has once it gets to the site makes a site more reachable. It is shown that this method is fast enough to be run online and is generic enough for use on a range of aircraft. Based on identified factors that make a landing site more suitable, a multi criteria decision making Bayesian network is developed to decide upon which site a unmanned aircraft should land in. It can handle uncertainty and non-complete information while guaranteeing a fast reasonable decision, which is critical in this time sensitive situation. A high fidelity simulation environment and flight test platform are developed in order to test the performance of the developed algorithms. The test environments developed enable rapid prototyping of algorithms not just within the scope of this thesis, but on a range of vehicle types. In simulation the minimum height loss paths show good accuracy, for two completely different types of aircraft. The decision making algorithms show that they are capable of being ran online in a flight test. They make a reasonable decision and are capable of quickly reacting to changing conditions, enabling redirection to a more suitable landing site.



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


© Matthew Coombes

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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