Control methods require the use of a system model for the design and tuning of the controllers in meeting and/or exceeding the control system performance objectives. However, system models contain errors and uncertainties that also may be complex to develop and to generalize for a large class of systems such as those for unmanned aircraft systems. In particular, the sliding control method is a superior robust nonlinear control approach due to the direct handling of nonlinearities and uncertainties that can be used in tracking problems for unmanned aircraft system. However, the derivation of the sliding mode control law is tedious since a unique and distinct control law needs to be derived for every individual system and cannot be applied to general systems that may encompass all classifications of unmanned aircraft systems. In this work, a model-free control algorithm based on the sliding mode control method is developed and generalized for all classes of unmanned aircraft systems used in robust tracking control applications. The model-free control algorithm is derived with knowledge of the system’s order, state measurements, and control input gain matrix shape and bounds and is not dependent on a mathematical system model. The derived control law is tested using a high-fidelity simulation of a quadrotor-type unmanned aircraft system and the results are compared to a traditional linear controller for tracking performance and power consumption. Realistic type hardware inputs from joysticks and inertial measurement units were simulated for the analysis. Finally, the model-free control algorithm was implemented on a quadrotor-type unmanned aircraft system testbed used in real flight experimental testing. The experimental tracking performance and power consumption was analyzed and compared to a traditional linear-type controller. Results showed that the model-free approach is superior in tracking performance and power consumption compared to traditional linear-type control strategies.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Sliding mode control; Drone aircraft--Automatic control

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Mechanical Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Mechanical Engineering (KGCOE)


Agamemnon Crassidis

Advisor/Committee Member

Amitabha Ghosh

Advisor/Committee Member

Mark Kempski


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes