Safe Low-Altitude Navigation in Steep Terrain with Fixed-Wing Aerial Vehicles

9 Jan 2024  ·  Jaeyoung Lim, Florian Achermann, Rik Girod, Nicholas Lawrance, Roland Siegwart ·

Fixed-wing aerial vehicles provide an efficient way to navigate long distances or cover large areas for environmental monitoring applications. By design, they also require large open spaces due to limited maneuverability. However, strict regulatory and safety altitude limits constrain the available space. Especially in complex, confined, or steep terrain, ensuring the vehicle does not enter an inevitable collision state(ICS) can be challenging. In this work, we propose a strategy to find safe paths that do not enter an ICS while navigating within tight altitude constraints. The method uses periodic paths to efficiently classify ICSs. A sampling-based planner creates collision-free and kinematically feasible paths that begin and end in safe periodic (circular) paths. We show that, in realistic terrain, using circular periodic paths can simplify the goal selection process by making it yaw agnostic and constraining yaw. We demonstrate our approach by dynamically planning safe paths in real-time while navigating steep terrain on a flight test in complex alpine terrain.

PDF Abstract


  Add Datasets introduced or used in this paper