Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical and Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Hector Gutierrez

Second Advisor

Munevver Subasi

Third Advisor

Tiauw Go

Fourth Advisor

Markus Wilde


The concept of using Satellite Formation Flight (SFF) reveals various benefits for a space mission. However, relying on a consumable actuation system to maintain a desired relative position and orientation between flying satellites has hindered its practicality and feasibility for long duration missions. By adapting the SFF concept such that electromagnetic actuation mechanism is employed, the concept of Electromagnetic Formation Flight (EMFF) offers a great potential to validate such a technology. EMFF provides interacting forces and torques between flying satellites to maintain their relative position within a formation using its electromagnetic actuation capabilities. This dissertation demonstrates the possibilities of utilizing a vision-based positioning system, called Smartphone Video Guidance Sensor, for performing autonomous navigation and electromagnetic formation flight between dual vehicles of RINGS hardware. The study presented in this research aims to perform the following: First, conducting experimental assessment tests to assess the overall performance of positioning estimations of the SVGS sensor. Quantitative analyses of the positioning errors of SVGS, which highlight its abilities to estimate not only relative position but also relative velocity, were analyzed. The presented statistical analyses compare both mean and standard deviation errors, where results demonstrate how precise the SVGS can keep track of the relative position and orientation for the moving target. Second, establishing the feasibility of a vision-based navigation and flight formation between two vehicles, where various path-following problems were demonstrated using the introduced vision-based system. Optimal control technique, as well as optimal state estimator, were involved in the design and formulation of the developed closed-loop system. Experimental results highlight the capabilities of the implemented control systems and the developed ducted-fan motion platform to perform experimentally a leader-follower based formation flight, where maneuvers of position hold and path following were analyzed and presented. Third, demonstrating the design and experimental implementation of closed-loop axial position control for electromagnetic formation flight vehicles using the alternative electromagnetic actuators of RINGS hardware. The experimental setup for the EMFF tests aims to control the planar motion of a moving vehicle relative to a stationary vehicle in a two-dimensional setup using typical robust control methods. Overall, this dissertation experimentally proves the ability of the vision-based SVGS positioning system and the RINGS system to demonstrates successful closed-loop EMFF position control between two flying vehicles.


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