Design, control, and visual navigation of the DelftaCopter VTOL tail-sitter UAV

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To participate in the Outback Medical Express UAV Challenge 2016, a vehicle was designed and tested that can autonomously hover precisely, takeoff and land vertically, fly fast forward efficiently, and use computer vision to locate a person and a suitable landing location. The vehicle is a novel hybrid tail‐sitter combining a delta‐shaped biplane fixed‐wing and a conventional helicopter rotor. The rotor and wing are mounted perpendicularly to each other,and the entire vehicle pitches down to transition from hover to fast forward flight where the rotor serves as propulsion. To deliver sufficient thrust in hover while still being efficient in fast forward flight, a custom rotor system was designed. The theoretical design was validated with energy measurements, wind tunnel tests, and application in real‐world missions. A rotor‐head and corresponding control algorithm were developed to allow transitioning flight with the nonconventional rotor dynamics that are caused by the fuselage rotor interaction. Dedicated electronics were designed that meet vehicle needs and comply with regulations to allow safe flight beyond visual line of sight. Vision‐based search and guidance algorithms running on a stereo‐vision fish‐eye camera were developed and tested to locate a person in cluttered terrain never seen before. Flight tests and a competition participation illustrate the applicability of the DelftaCopter concept.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)937-960
JournalJournal of Field Robotics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • aerial robotics
  • control
  • emergency response
  • perception
  • sensors


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