Date of Award


Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering

Committee Chair

Dr. Richard Prazenica, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Dr. Hever Moncayo, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Dr. Eric Coyle, Ph.D.


This research focuses on the theoretical development and analysis of a direct adaptive control algorithm to enable a fixed-wing UAV to track reference trajectories while in the presence of persistent external disturbances. A typical application of this work is autonomous flight through urban environments, where reference trajectories would be provided by a path planning algorithm and the vehicle would be subjected to significant wind gust disturbances. Full 6-DOF nonlinear and linear UAV simulation models are developed and used to study the performance of the direct adaptive control system for various scenarios. A stability proof is developed to prove convergence of the direct adaptive control system under certain conditions. Specific adaptive controller implementation details are provided, including the use of a sensor blending algorithm to address the non-minimum phase properties of the UAV models. The robustness of the adaptive system pertaining to the amount of modeling error that can be accommodated by the controller is studied, and the disturbance rejection capabilities and limitations of the controllers are also analyzed. The overall results of this research demonstrate that the direct adaptive control algorithm can enable trajectory tracking in cases where there are both significant uncertainties in the external disturbances and considerable error in the UAV model.