The autonomous guidance, navigation, and control laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin
This report details the design, construction, and contents of the Autonomous Guidance, Navigation, and Control Laboratory (AGNC Lab) for Dr. Behcet Acikmese at the University of Texas. It is intended as a resource for those who are new to the lab or to one of its systems. The lab was created to test --- on real-world platforms --- the control algorithms produced by Dr. Acikmese’s research group. To separate the control problems from other engineering challenges of autonomous vehicles, the lab uses an optical motion capture system which can relay vehicle's their position and orientation. To support hardware development, the lab houses a full compliment of hand tools, electronics equipment, and a 3D extrusion printer. The primary research vehicle is the quadrotor, selected for its mechanical simplicity, aerial agility, and recent ubiquity. Through the testing of several quadrotors, my group found existing platforms did not fulfill our need for small size and weight, outdoor flight, payload capacity, and computational power. In response, we designed a custom quadrotor and autopilot. The vehicle flies safely indoors, confidently outdoors, and with a payload of up to half its own mass. The autopilot is based on an ARM microprocessor, leaving ample overhead for our group's algorithms, and can easily add new functionality with breakout boards.