An innovative navigation and guidance system for small unmanned aircraft using low-cost sensors

Roberto Sabatini, Francesco Cappello, Subramanian Ramasamy, Alessandro Gardi, Reece Clothier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to design a compact, light and relatively inexpensive navigation and guidance system capable of providing the required navigation performance (RNP) in all phases of flight of small unmanned aircrafts (UA), with a special focus on precision approach and landing. Design/methodology/approach - Two multi-sensor architectures for navigation and guidance of small UA are proposed and compared in this paper. These architectures are based, respectively, on a standard extended Kalman filter (EKF) approach and a more advanced unscented Kalman filter (UKF) approach for data fusion of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS)-based inertial measurement unit (IMU) and vision-based navigation (VBN) sensors. Findings - The EKF-based VBN-IMU-GNSS-aircraft dynamics model (ADM) (VIGA) system and the UKF-based system (VIGA) performances are compared in a small UA integration scheme (i.e. AEROSONDE UA platform) exploring a representative cross-section of this UA operational flight envelope, including high-dynamics manoeuvres and CAT-I to CAT-III precision approach tasks. The comparison shows that the position and attitude accuracy of the proposed VIGA and VIGA systems are compatible with the RNP specified in the various UA flight profiles, including precision approach down to CAT-II. Originality/value - The novelty aspect is the augmentation by ADM in both architectures to compensate for the MEMS-IMU sensor shortcomings in high-dynamics attitude determination tasks. Additionally, the ADM measurements are pre-filtered by an UKF with the purpose of increasing the ADM attitude solution stability time in the UKF-based system.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)540-545
Number of pages6
JournalAircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 5 Oct 2015


  • Aircraft dynamics models
  • Extended/Unscented Kalman filter
  • Low-cost sensors
  • Required navigation performance
  • Unmanned aircraft
  • Vision based navigation


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