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The MIT / Draper Laboratory Autonomous Helicopter

Stephen Atkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
William Hall & Paul DeBitetto, Draper Laboratory, Inc.
David Cohn, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Draper Laboratory have cooperated to develop an autonomous helicopter that will be entered in the 1995 International Aerial Robotics Competition. This paper describes the system architecture and subsystem designs of that helicopter.

The philosophy throughout the project was risk reduction through design simplicity. Navigation is accomplished using ground-based sensors. The guidance subsystem, which runs on the ground computer, combines the vehicle state estimate and a waypoint chosen by the mission planner to define the commanded attitude angles and altitude, which are up-linked to the vehicle. Inner-loop flight control is accomplished entirely on-board. The disk retrieval mechanism adds few moving parts and only simple microswitch sensors to the vehicle.

Bill Hall
Fri Jan 31 14:15:17 EST 1997