Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Electrical Engineering

First Advisor

Stephen L. Titcomb


This thesis develops an alternative sensor fusion approach for object orientation using low-cost MEMS inertial sensors. The alternative approach focuses on the unique challenges of small UAVs. Such challenges include the vibrational induced noise onto the accelerometer and bias offset errors of the rate gyroscope. To overcome these challenges, a sensor fusion algorithm combines the measured data from the accelerometer and rate gyroscope to achieve a single output free from vibrational noise and bias offset errors.

One of the most prevalent sensor fusion algorithms used for orientation estimation is the Extended Kalman filter (EKF). The EKF filter performs the fusion process by first creating the process model using the nonlinear equations of motion and then establishing a measurement model. With the process and measurement models established, the filter operates by propagating the mean and covariance of the states through time.

The success of EKF relies on the ability to establish a representative process and measurement model of the system. In most applications, the EKF measurement model utilizes the accelerometer and GPS-derived accelerations to determine an estimate of the orientation. However, if the GPS-derived accelerations are not available then the measurement model becomes less reliable when subjected to harsh vibrational environments. This situation led to the alternative approach, which focuses on the correlation between the rate gyroscope and accelerometer-derived angle. The correlation between the two sensors then determines how much the algorithm will use one sensor over the other. The result is a measurement that does not suffer from the vibrational noise or from bias offset errors.



Number of Pages

119 p.