Transition Optimization for a VTOL Tail-Sitter UAV

Boyang Li, Jingxuan Sun, Weifeng Zhou, Chih Yung Wen, Kin Huat Low, Chih Keng Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


This article focuses on the transition process optimization for a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) tail-sitter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). For VTOL UAVs that can fly with either hover or cruise mode, transition refers to the intermediate phases between these two modes. This work develops a transition strategy with the trajectory optimization method. The strategy is a reference maneuver enabling the vehicle to perform transition efficiently by minimizing the cost of energy and maintaining a small change of altitude. The simplified three-degree-of-freedom longitudinal aerodynamic model is used as a dynamic constraint. The transition optimization problem is then modeled by nonlinear programming and solved by the collocation method to obtain the reference trajectory of the pitch angle and throttle offline. Simulations with the Gazebo simulator and outdoor flight experiments are carried out with the optimized forward (hover cruise) and backward (cruise hover) transition solutions. The simulation and experimental results show that the optimized transition strategy enables the vehicle to finish transition with less time and change of altitude compared with that by using traditional linear transition methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9051852
Pages (from-to)2534-2545
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Flight experiments
  • tail-sitter
  • trajectory optimization
  • transition
  • unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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