Abstract.

In this paper, we propose a new control method for the next generation of sailboat autopilots. These new systems will need to manage more actuators to control the hydrofoils, which is going to significantly increase the energy requirements. So, this method is aware of the autopilot power consumption. It uses a model predictive controller to manage the actuators. This controller uses a dynamic model of the actuator, running in real time, to anticipate the future behavior of the system. Once the predictions are made, it determines the future control sequence to apply in order to follow the reference trajectory. To do so, it minimizes a cost function which takes into account two criteria: the precision of the system and the energy. With the proposed control method, skippers can focus on one or the other criterion depending on their goals and the boat's energy balance. We apply this method to one of the autopilot's subsystems, namely the rudder control. The electric actuator intervening in this control loop and the load representing the force opposed to its motion are modelled to design the control law. The first results of that method are compared with a standard autopilot. We increase by 40% the precision level and we are able to reduce the consumption by at least 20%. This work provides the first necessary components of a future autopilot that will control the whole appendages to a three-dimensional piloting. Moreover, this type of management is a first step towards possible fossil fuel-free sailboats.

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