UAV Autopilot Controllers Test Platform Using Matlab / Simulink and X-Plane
Presently there is vast interest in UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) development given its civilian and military applications. One of the main UAV components is the autopilot system. Its development invariably demands several lab simulations and field tests. Generally after an UAV crash few parts remain usable. Thus, before embedding an autopilot system, it has to be exhaustively lab tested. With educational and research purposes in autopilot control systems development area, a test platform is herein proposed. It employs Matlab/Simulink to run the autopilot controller under test, the flight simulator X-Plane with the aircraft to be commanded, a microcontroller to command model aircraft flight control surfaces and a servo to drive these control surfaces. These resources are interconnected through data communication buses. So that, the autopilot controller designed on Matlab/Simulink is tested by controlling an aircraft on X-Plane. The inputs given to the aircraft flight control surfaces in the X-Plane are simultaneously sent to the microcontroller which translates these commands into effective servo movement control. Through this platform, designed autopilot systems can be applied into models similar to real aircraft minimizing risks and increasing flexibility for design changes. As study case, tests results from a roll attitude autopilot system are presented.