Embodied airflow sensing for improved in-gust flight of flapping wing MAVs

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Flapping wing micro aerial vehicles (FWMAVs) are known for their flight agility and maneuverability. These bio-inspired and lightweight flying robots still present limitations in their ability to fly in direct wind and gusts, as their stability is severely compromised in contrast with their biological counterparts. To this end, this work aims at making in-gust flight of flapping wing drones possible using an embodied airflow sensing approach combined with an adaptive control framework at the velocity and position control loops. At first, an extensive experimental campaign is conducted on a real FWMAV to generate a reliable and accurate model of the in-gust flight dynamics, which informs the design of the adaptive position and velocity controllers. With an extended experimental validation, this embodied airflow-sensing approach integrated with the adaptive controller reduces the root-mean-square errors along the wind direction by 25.15% when the drone is subject to frontal wind gusts of alternating speeds up to 2.4 m/s, compared to the case with a standard cascaded PID controller. The proposed sensing and control framework improve flight performance reliably and serve as the basis of future progress in the field of in-gust flight of lightweight FWMAVs.