Formation control of fixed-wing unmanned aircraft: Theory and experiments

Christopher Heintz, Sean C. Bailey, Jesse B. Hoagg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We present a formation-control method for fixed-wing unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), where the desired relative positions between the agents are expressed in a leader-fixed coordinate frame, which is aligned with the leader’s velocity vector. The leader can be a physical agent (e.g., a UAV) or a virtual agent. We assume that each agent has relative-position feedback of its neighbor agents, where the agents’ neighbor sets are such that the interagent communication structure represents a strongly connected directed graph. Each agent also has feedforward of the leader’s position, velocity, acceleration, and orientation. The main analytic result shows that each agent converges to the desired relative positions with the other agents and the leader. We also present experiments demonstrating the leader-fixed formation-control algorithm with a group of fixed-wing UAVs. To implement the formation-control algorithm, we use middle-loop controllers to determine the roll, pitch, and throttle commands based on the controls computed by the leader-fixed formation-control algorithm. We present results demonstrating the formation-control method using software-in-the-loop simulations with three fixed-wing UAVs (one leader and two agents) as well as flight experiments with two fixed-wing UAVs (one leader and one agent).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAIAA Scitech 2019 Forum
StatePublished - 2019
EventAIAA Scitech Forum, 2019 - San Diego, United States
Duration: Jan 7 2019Jan 11 2019

Publication series

NameAIAA Scitech 2019 Forum


ConferenceAIAA Scitech Forum, 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Formation control of fixed-wing unmanned aircraft: Theory and experiments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this