Vision-only control and guidance for aircraft

Alison A. Proctor, Eric N. Johnson, Thomas B. Apker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


An unmanned aerial vehicle usually carries an array of sensors whose output is used to estimate vehicle attitude, velocity, and position. This paper details the development of guidance, navigation, and control strategies for a glider, which is capable of flying a terminal trajectory to a known fixed object using only a single vision sensor. Controlling an aircraft using only vision presents two unique challenges: First, absolute state measurements are not available from a single image; and second, the images must be collected and processed at a high rate to achieve the desired controller performance. The image processor utilizes an integral image representation and a rejective cascade filter to find and classify simple features in the images, reducing the image to the most probable pixel location of the destination object. Then, an extended Kalman filter uses measurements obtained from a single image to estimate the states that would otherwise be unobservable in a single image. In this research, the flights are constrained to keep the destination object in view. The approach is validated through simulation. Finally, experimental data from autonomous flights of a glider, instrumented only with a single nose-mounted camera, intercepting a target window during short low-level flights, are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)863-890
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Field Robotics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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