A software-in-the-loop implementation of adaptive formation control for fixed-wing UAVs

Jun Yang, Ximan Wang, Simone Baldi*, Satish Singh, Stefano Fari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
184 Downloads (Pure)


This paper discusses the design and software-in-the-loop implementation of adaptive formation controllers for fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with parametric uncertainty in their structure, namely uncertain mass and inertia. In fact, when aiming at autonomous flight, such parameters cannot assumed to be known as they might vary during the mission (e.g. depending on the payload). Modelingg and autopilot design for such autonomous fixed-wing UAVs are presented. The modeling is implemented in Matlab, while the autopilot is based on ArduPilot, a popular open-source autopilot suite. Specifically, the ArduPilot functionalities are emulated in Matlab according to the Ardupilot documentation and code, which allows us to perform software-in-the-loop simulations of teams of UAVs embedded with actual autopilot protocols. An overview of realtime path planning, trajectory tracking and formation control resulting from the proposed platform is given. The software-in-the-loop simulations show the capability of achieving different UAV formations while handling uncertain mass and inertia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1230-1239
JournalIEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • adaptive formation control
  • ArduPilot
  • Fixed-wing UAVs
  • software-in-the-loop simulations


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