A compact guidance, navigation, and control system for unmanned aerial vehicles

Henrik B. Christophersen, R. Wayne Pickell, James C. Neidhoefer, Adrian A. Koller, Suresh K. Kannan, Eric N. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The Flight Control System 20 (FCS20) is a compact, self-contained Guidance, Navigation, and Control system that has recently been developed to enable advanced autonomous behavior in a wide range of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The FCS20 uses a floating point Digital Signal Processor (DSP) for high level serial processing, a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) for low level parallel processing, and GPS and Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) sensors. In addition to guidance, navigation, and control functions, the FCS20 is capable of supporting advanced algorithms such as automated reasoning, artificial vision, and multi-vehicle interaction. The unique contribution of this paper is that it gives a complete overview of the FCS20 GN&C system, including computing, communications, and information aspects. Computing aspects of the FCS20 include details about the design process, hardware components, and board configurations, and specifications. Communications aspects of the FCS20 include descriptions of internal and external data flow. The information section describes the FCS20 Operating System (OS), the Support Vehicle Interface Library (SVIL) software, the navigation Extended Kalman Filter, and the neural network based adaptive controller. Finally, simulation-based results as well as actual flight test results that demonstrate the operation of the guidance, navigation, and control algorithms on a real Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-213
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Aerospace Computing, Information and Communication
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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