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The trajectory tracking problem for a real-scaled fully-actuated surface vessel is addressed in this paper. A nonlinear model predictive control (NMPC) scheme was designed to track a reference trajectory, considering state and input constraints, and environmental disturbances, which were assumed to be constant over the prediction horizon. The controller was tested by performing docking maneuvers using the real-scaled research vessel from the University of Applied Sciences Konstanz at the Rhine river in Germany. A comparison between the experimental results and the simulated ones was analyzed to validate the NMPC controller.

Extended Target Tracking With a Lidar Sensor Using Random Matrices and a Virtual Measurement Model
(2022)

Random matrices are widely used to estimate the extent of an elliptically contoured object. Usually, it is assumed that the measurements follow a normal distribution, with its standard deviation being proportional to the object’s extent. However, the random matrix approach can filter the center of gravity and the covariance matrix of measurements independently of the measurement model. This work considers the whole chain from data acquisition to the linear Kalman Filter with extension estimation as a reference plant. The input is the (unknown) ground truth (position and extent). The output is the filtered center of gravity and the filtered covariance matrix of the measurement distribution. A virtual measurement model emulates the behavior of the reference plant. The input of the virtual measurement model is adapted using the proposed algorithm until the output parameters of the virtual measurement model match the result of the reference plant. After the adaptation, the input to the virtual measurement model is considered an estimation for position and extent. The main contribution of this paper is the reference model concept and an adaptation algorithm to optimize the input of the virtual measurement model.

Trajectory Tracking of a Fully-actuated Surface Vessel using Nonlinear Model Predictive Control
(2021)

The trajectory tracking problem for a fully-actuated real-scaled surface vessel is addressed in this paper. The unknown hydrodynamic and propulsion parameters of the vessel’s dynamic model were identified using an experimental maneuver-based identification process. Then, a nonlinear model predictive control (NMPC) scheme is designed and the controller’s performance is assessed through the variation of NMPC parameters and constraints tightening for tracking a curved trajectory.

Reliability Assessment of an Unscented Kalman Filter by Using Ellipsoidal Enclosure Techniques
(2022)

The Unscented Kalman Filter (UKF) is widely used for the state, disturbance, and parameter estimation of nonlinear dynamic systems, for which both process and measurement uncertainties are represented in a probabilistic form. Although the UKF can often be shown to be more reliable for nonlinear processes than the linearization-based Extended Kalman Filter (EKF) due to the enhanced approximation capabilities of its underlying probability distribution, it is not a priori obvious whether its strategy for selecting sigma points is sufficiently accurate to handle nonlinearities in the system dynamics and output equations. Such inaccuracies may arise for sufficiently strong nonlinearities in combination with large state, disturbance, and parameter covariances. Then, computationally more demanding approaches such as particle filters or the representation of (multi-modal) probability densities with the help of (Gaussian) mixture representations are possible ways to resolve this issue. To detect cases in a systematic manner that are not reliably handled by a standard EKF or UKF, this paper proposes the computation of outer bounds for state domains that are compatible with a certain percentage of confidence under the assumption of normally distributed states with the help of a set-based ellipsoidal calculus. The practical applicability of this approach is demonstrated for the estimation of state variables and parameters for the nonlinear dynamics of an unmanned surface vessel (USV).

In this paper, a novel feature-based sampling strategy for nonlinear Model Predictive Path Integral (MPPI) control is presented. Using the MPPI approach, the optimal feedback control is calculated by solving a stochastic optimal control (OCP) problem online by evaluating the weighted inference of sampled stochastic trajectories. While the MPPI algorithm can be excellently parallelized, the closed-loop performance strongly depends on the information quality of the sampled trajectories. To draw samples, a proposal density is used. The solver’s and thus, the controller’s performance is of high quality if the sampled trajectories drawn from this proposal density are located in low-cost regions of state-space. In classical MPPI control, the explored state-space is strongly constrained by assumptions that refer to the control value’s covariance matrix, which are necessary for transforming the stochastic Hamilton–Jacobi–Bellman (HJB) equation into a linear second-order partial differential equation. To achieve excellent performance even with discontinuous cost functions, in this novel approach, knowledge-based features are introduced to constitute the proposal density and thus the low-cost region of state-space for exploration. This paper addresses the question of how the performance of the MPPI algorithm can be improved using a feature-based mixture of base densities. Furthermore, the developed algorithm is applied to an autonomous vessel that follows a track and concurrently avoids collisions using an emergency braking feature. Therefore, the presented feature-based MPPI algorithm is applied and analyzed in both simulation and full-scale experiments.

Experimental Validation of Ellipsoidal Techniques for State Estimation in Marine Applications
(2022)

A reliable quantification of the worst-case influence of model uncertainty and external disturbances is crucial for the localization of vessels in marine applications. This is especially true if uncertain GPS-based position measurements are used to update predicted vessel locations that are obtained from the evaluation of a ship’s state equation. To reflect real-life working conditions, these state equations need to account for uncertainty in the system model, such as imperfect actuation and external disturbances due to effects such as wind and currents. As an application scenario, the GPS-based localization of autonomous DDboat robots is considered in this paper. Using experimental data, the efficiency of an ellipsoidal approach, which exploits a bounded-error representation of disturbances and uncertainties, is demonstrated.

In this paper, a gain-scheduled nonlinear control structure is proposed for a surface vessel, which takes advantage of extended linearisation techniques. Thereby, an accurate tracking of desired trajectories can be guaranteed that contributes to a safe and reliable water transport. The PI state feedback control is extended by a feedforward control based on an inverse system model. To achieve an accurate trajectory tracking, however, an observer-based disturbance compensation is necessary: external disturbances by cross currents or wind forces in lateral direction and wave-induced measurement disturbances are estimated by a nonlinear observer and used for a compensation. The efficiency and the achieved tracking performance are shown by simulation results using a validated model of the ship Korona at the HTWG Konstanz, Germany. Here, both tracking behaviour and rejection of disturbance forces in lateral direction are considered.

In this paper, utilisation of an Unscented Kalman Filter for concurrently performing disturbance estimation and wave filtering is investigated. Experimental results are provided that demonstrate very good performance subject to both tasks. For the filter, a dynamic model has been used which was optimised via correlation analysis in order to obtain a minimum set of relevant parameters. This model has also been validated by experiments deploying a small vessel. A simulation study is presented to evaluate the performance using known quantities. Experimental trials have been performed on the Rhine river. The results show that for instance flow direction and varying current velocities can continuously be estimated with decent precision, even while the boat is performing turning manoeuvres. Moreover, the filtering properties are very satisfactory. This makes the filter suitable for being used, for instance, in autonomous vessel applications or assistance systems.