A semi-physical platform for guidance and formations of fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles

Jun Yang, Arun Geo Thomas, Satish Singh, Simone Baldi*, Ximan Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have multi-domain applications, fixed-wing UAVs being a widely used class. Despite the ongoing research on the topics of guidance and formation control of fixed-wing UAVs, little progress is known on implementation of semi-physical validation platforms (software-in-the-loop or hardware-in-the-loop) for such complex autonomous systems. A semi-physical simulation platform should capture not only the physical aspects of UAV dynamics, but also the cybernetics aspects such as the autopilot and the communication layers connecting the different components. Such a cyber-physical integration would allow validation of guidance and formation control algorithms in the presence of uncertainties, unmodelled dynamics, low-level control loops, communication protocols and unreliable communication: These aspects are often neglected in the design of guidance and formation control laws for fixed-wing UAVs. This paper describes the development of a semi-physical platform for multi-fixed wing UAVs where all the aforementioned points are carefully integrated. The environment adopts Raspberry Pi’s programmed in C++, which can be interfaced to standard autopilots (PX4) as a companion computer. Simulations are done in a distributed setting with a server program designed for the purpose of routing data between nodes, handling the user inputs and configurations of the UAVs. Gazebo-ROS is used as a 3D visualization tool.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1136
Number of pages22
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Cyber-physical systems
  • Fixed-wing UAVs
  • Formation control
  • Guidance law
  • Smart sensor systems
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)


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