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Small Unmanned Aircraft: Theory and Practice

R. Beard, T. McLain,
Princeton University Press, 2012

Small Unmanned Aircraft: Theory and Practice: Supplement

  • Supplemental material is currently under construction. It will be regularly updated during Winter 2019. This file is preliminary and has not been carefully proof read.


The following lecture materials are included as a resource for instructors. The slides closely follow the book. We welcome suggestions on how these slides might be improved. - RWB & TWM

Chapter PDF Slides Powerpoint Last Modified
Chapter 1 - Introduction chap1.pdf chap1.pptx 9/10/2014
Chapter 2 - Coordinate Frames chap2.pdf chap2.pptx 1/11/2019
Chapter 3 - Kinematics and Dynamics chap3.pdf chap3.pptx 1/28/2020
Chapter 4 - Forces and Moments chap4.pdf chap4.pptx 1/24/2020
Chapter 5 - Linear Design Models chap5.pdf chap5.pptx 2/3/2020
Chapter 6 - Autopilot Design chap6.pdf chap6.pptx 2/27/2020
Chapter 7 - Sensors chap7.pdf chap7.pptx 2/19/2019
Chapter 8 - State Estimation chap8.pdf chap8.pptx 2/28/2020
Chapter 9 - Nonlinear Design Models chap9.pdf chap9.pptx 11/4/2014
Chapter 10 - Waypoint and Orbit Following chap10.pdf chap10.pptx 3/25/2020
Chapter 11 - Path Manager chap11.pdf chap11.pptx 03/30/2020
Chapter 12 - Path Planning chap12.pdf chap12.pptx 04/03/2017
Chapter 13 - Cameras chap13.pdf chap13.pptx 04/10/2017


The following files are included to help students with the project outlined in the book. We have found that if students start with these files, that they can generally do the project in about 3 hours per chapter. Full solutions to the project are available to instructors upon request. We respectfully ask that students and instructors do not post full solutions to the project anywhere on the web. The project creates an excellent learning experience and we believe that anyone who works the project for themselves will be much better equipped to make contributions to the state of the art in small unmanned air vehicles. - RWB & TWM

Github repository

The template files for Simulink, Matlab OOP, and Python are available at the following github repository:


  • There are some issues with the Zagi coefficients given in the book. We recommend that you use the following (slightly modified from the book) coefficients for the aerosonde aircraft. aerosonde.m
  • For the Aerosonde model use an initial speed of Va = 35 m/s, and and radius of 250 meters.
  • Additional information: The Aerosonde weight is actually 25kg. Also, the cruise speed is approximately Va=35 m/s.

Video Solutions


As you find typos and errors in the book, please send us an email. We will post the errors on this page and work with Princeton University Press to ensure that they do not propagate to future printings. - RWB & TWM

All corrections and additions in the supplement will be incorporated into a future second edition of the book.



Our intention is to occasionally add supplemental material to this page. We would also welcome contributions from the broader community. If you are interested in adding material, please contact the authors.

  • Full Longitudinal State Direct and Indirect Kalman Filter
    • The Kalman filters presented in the book are meant to be tutorial and are intended for aircraft with very limited processors. Estimating the full state using all available sensors is a much better approach. There are two methods for constructing the Kalman filter: direct state estimation, and indirect state estimation. The following pdf and Simulink model describes and implements both filters for the full longitudinal state. You will note from the simulation, that this method works much better than that described in the book.
  • Dubins Airplane Paths
    • The Dubins paths discussed in Chapter 11 assume that the MAV is flying at a constant altitude. The associated model is typically called a Dubins car model. The Dubins car can be extended to a Dubins airplane model that includes altitude. An explanation of the associated Dubins airplane paths is discussed in:
      • Mark Owen, Randal W. Beard, Timothy W. McLain, “Implementing Dubins Airplane Paths on Fixed-wing UAVs,” Handbook of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, ed. Kimon P. Valavanis, George J. Vachtsevanos, Springer Verlag, Section XII, Chapter 68, p. 1677-1702, 2014. Preprint.
    • Simulink files implementing Dubins airplane paths. Run the Simulink file mavsim_dubins.slx.
  • Python Simulator
  • Zagi Coefficients
    • zagi_coefficents.pdf The aerodynamic coefficients for the Zagi aircraft as given in the book, come from this paper.
  • Total Energy Control
    • An alternative to the longitudinal autopilot described in the textbook is the “Total Energy Control System” described here: tecs_autopilot.pdf.
    • A nonlinear version of the total energy control system is described in the following paper.
      • Matthew Argyle, Randal W. Beard, “Nonlinear Total Energy Control for the Longitudinal Dynamics of an Aircraft,” Proceedings of the American Control Conference, Boston, MA, 2016.PDF
    • For more detail, see Chapter 6 of
      • Matthew E. Argyle, “Modeling and Control of a Tailsitter with a Ducted Fan,” PhD Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 2016. PDF
    • The advantage of the total energy control method is that it is independent of the aerodynamic model.
  • Accelerometers and Attitude Control For Multi-rotors
    • Accelerometers are often used to estimate the roll and pitch angles of multi-rotor vehicles. It turns out that since the aerodynamics of multi-rotors are quite different than fixed wing vehicles, the method described in the book does not work for multi-rotor vehicles. An detailed explanation of what data can be extracted from accelerometers on multi-rotor vehicles is given in
      • Robert Leishman, John Macdonald, Randal W. Beard, Timothy W. McLain, “Quadrotors and Accelerometers: State Estimation with an Improved Dynamic Model,” IEEE Control Systems Magazine, vol. 34, no. 1, p. 28-41, February, 2014. Preprint.
start.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/30 11:55 by beard