MECH.5300  —  Autonomous Robotic Systems

Course Description

This course covers concepts related to autonomous robotic systems, emphasizing the synthesis and design of control algorithms for autonomous robotic vehicles. Topics that are covered in the course include: rigid body equations of motion in three dimensions, dynamic model derivation of aerial, space, marine and ground vehicles, fundamentals of flight dynamics, feedback control design for autonomous robotic vehicles, guidance and navigation, and a description of components typically encountered to autonomous robotic vehicles.

This is one of the few course offerings at a national level that provides a comprehensive and coherent presentation of a broad range of mathematical topics related to autonomous robotic vehicles. With the fast development of autonomous robotic vehicles, both ground and aerial, there is a critical need to expose students from diverse disciplines of engineering, computer and science to this emerging research area.

Course Goals

  1. Develop mathematical tools for the analysis of robotic vehicles motion.

  2. Introduce engineering concepts related to autonomous robots.

  3. Provide a concise and comprehensive description of the key concepts and technologies underlying the dynamics, control and guidance of several types of autonomous robotic vehicles.

  4. Enable students with an introductory-level background in controls or robotics to enter the area of autonomous robotic systems.

  5. Develop proficiency in MATLAB/SIMULINK programming tools related to the simulation of robotic vehicles.

  6. Motivate interested students in pursuit of advanced studies in topics related to autonomy and controls.

List of Tentative Topics

  1. Kinematics of differential-drive robots

  2. Waypoint navigation

  3. Dubins paths

  4. Straight-line and orbit following

  5. Navigation potential functions

  6. Kinematics and Dynamics in the 3-D space

  7. Autopilot design using successive loop closure

  8. Modeling and control of Helicopters/Quadrotors

  9. Sensors for MAVs

Activities – Tasks


Implementation of waypoint control, guidance and path planning algorithms for wheeled mobile robots. The goal here is to have a unicycle robot follow a sequence of destination waypoints that form a path. The first challenge involves the implementation of a low-level nonlinear control law that drives the robot to a destination waypoint. Then, a guidance law based on vector fields, is introduced that converges the robot asymptotically to straight line segments and circular orbits. A high-level path planner is used in conjunction with the guidance law to drive the robot robustly through a sequence of waypoints.


Create a 3-D graphic of an aircraft in MATLAB. This animation will be used to visualize the motion of the vehicle. Familiarization with MATLAB's figure handles for designing highly quality illustrations of aircraft simulations. A preliminary description of the different coordinate frames is given.


Translate and rotate rigid bodies using MATLAB. Use the Direction Cosine Matrix (DCM) to transform the coordinates between an inertial and a moving body-fixed frame. Illustrate in MATLAB figures, rigid bodies with coordinates expressed with respect to the North East Down (NED) convention. Use MATLAB to animate the position and orientation of a rigid body.


Implement the 3-D rigid body's equations of motion in MATLAB/SIMULINK. Use the S-Function block to integrate the nonlinear dynamics of a rigid body with six Degrees of Freedom (DoF). Record the motion variables of a rigid body for different values of its external wrench (force/moment vectors).


Use a Simulink/MATLAB simulator to control an autonomous quadrotor. Design an autopilot using successive loop closure. Tune the gains of Proportional Derivative (PD) compensators that stabilize the yaw, heave, longitudinal and lateral loops of the quadcopter. Study the effect of saturation constraints to the bandwidth of the feedback control system. Experiment with different types of trajectories and observe the effect of discontinuities to the response of the aircraft. Investigate the effect of parametric uncertainties and external disturbances from wind gusts, and implementation of an integral compensator to attenuate their effect.