Using MapleSim in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Models Provides Insights and Options Not Possible with Traditional Tools - User Case Studies - Maplesoft

User Case Study: Using MapleSim in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Models Provides Insights and Options Not Possible with Traditional Tools

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are an increasingly important tool in situations where it is dangerous or extremely difficult for humans to enter.  In addition to military applications, UAVs are used in environmental surveys, agriculture, and disaster relief efforts, and are one of the most active areas of contemporary engineering research. In order to help researchers develop new algorithms for controlling UAVs under a variety of different conditions, Quanser Inc. developed the QBall-X4, a UAV experiment platform for research in UAV control and design.

MapleSim™, Maplesoft’s modeling and simulation product, is a key tool for Quanser design engineers in developing the QBall.  The QBall-X4 is a quadrotor helicopter design with four motors and speed controllers fitted with 10-inch propellers. The entire mechanism is enclosed within a protective carbon fiber cage. The first step in its development was to create high-fidelity 3-D dynamics models of the system and its flying characteristics. The results and insights gained through using MapleSim were then transferred to the remaining toolchain to complete the development.

MapleSim gave Quanser engineers two significant advantages over traditional tools. The most important benefit to using MapleSim was its ability to fully capture the dynamics of the gyroscopic effects, the stabilizing effects of the spinning parts of the QBall. With traditional tools, gyroscopic effects are extremely difficult or impossible to treat, as developing sufficiently high fidelity models by hand is simply too difficult and too time consuming. Typically, design engineers resort to making various model simplifications or compromises for the model; ultimately, this reduces the accuracy and effectiveness of the simulation process. Since MapleSim automatically derives the system equations directly from the model diagram, the Quanser engineers developed a very high fidelity model with gyroscopic effects in very little time and with little effort.

Secondly, because it was so easy to make design changes in the MapleSim physical modeling environment, Quanser was able to test different designs for the rotors and choose the one that worked the best for them. MapleSim let them efficiently consider and dismiss alternate UAV configurations, such as single rotor, or coaxial counter rotating propeller configuration, before settling on the quadricopter design.

Quanser was surprised by the speed with which the models were developed. Derry Crymble, lead engineer for the QBall-X4 project commented, "I was very impressed with how little time it took us to configure a high fidelity model using MapleSim."

Dr. Jacob Apkarian, Founder and CTO of Quanser added, “MapleSim was an eye-opener for us. It gave us insights that we otherwise would not have had. We discovered behaviors in the system we hadn’t taken into account until we ran MapleSim simulations. We learned a lot about the system using MapleSim.”

Today, the Qball-X4 is one of Quanser's premier products and is used by researchers in both academic research and industry. MapleSim continues to be a valuable tool in Quanser’s development initiatives.