Department of Aerospace Engineering

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AE590 Seminar: Energy-Based Nonlinear Control of Ocean and Atmospheric Vehicles

Event Type
Department of Aerospace Engineering
Talbot Lab, Room 103
Oct 18, 2021   4:00 - 5:00 pm  
Craig Woolsey, Professor Crofton Department of Aerospace & Ocean Engineering, Virginia Tech
Courtney McLearin
Originating Calendar
Aerospace Engineering Seminars

Abstract: Model-based control design for ocean and atmospheric vehicles typically starts with a linear approximation of the system dynamics. And for good reason. A control system based on a linearized dynamic model outperforms alternatives when the linear model is accurate -- that is, for small perturbations from a nominal state. Control system performance degrades with the approximation, however. In scenarios where the small perturbation model is inappropriate, one must consider nonlinear modeling and control. Examples from the speaker’s experience include a small surface craft tracking a desired trajectory with variable speed and course, a submerged vessel maneuvering near the surface in waves, biomimetic vehicles that vary their shape for propulsion and control in water or in air, and a fixed-wing aircraft that maneuvers aggressively through the atmosphere. In considering these examples, a unifying theme will emerge: using the (nonlinear) mechanical system structure of the governing equations to obtain provably effective control strategies.


Bio: Craig Woolsey a Professor in Virginia Tech’s Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering (AOE). The principal aim of Prof. Woolsey’s research is to improve performance and robustness of autonomous vehicles, particularly ocean and atmospheric vehicles.  Woolsey is a past recipient of the NSF Career Award and the ONR Young Investigator Program Award and recently served on the National Academies Committee to Assess the Risks of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration. Woolsey is an active member of the AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Technical Committee (TC), the IEEE TC on Manufacturing, Robotics, and Automation, and the IFAC TC on Marine Systems. Prof. Woolsey teaches courses in ocean and atmospheric vehicle dynamics and in linear and nonlinear control. With AOE colleagues Mazen Farhood and Cornel Sultan, Woolsey co-directs the Nonlinear Systems Laboratory ( With his colleague Kevin Kochersberger, Prof. Woolsey also co-directs the Virginia Tech site within the Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (, an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center.

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