Nonlinear control laws often need to be implemented with digital hardware. Use of digital control systems leads to communication/processing delays which are widely neglected in control of mechanical systems. This paper proposes a discrete approach to feedback linearization that considers these commonly overlooked delays in design. The proposed approach is shown to both improve the performance and remove the need for continuous derivative terms. In feedback linearization control systems, designed in the continuous domain, derivative terms are required to speed up the control response of mechanical systems, but disadvantageously cause high sensitivity to noise. The proposed approach was used to design a feedback linearization control system for a common turning maneuver of an unmanned helicopter in yaw. At this maneuver, the helicopter centroid motion and pitch rotational speed are almost zero. Governing differential equations of the helicopter at this maneuver are nonlinear and coupled. A feedback linearization law was proposed to curb nonlinearity and, a discrete control system, considering the inevitable delay due to the use of digital control systems, was adopted to complete the control law. This innovative approach resulted in less sensitivity to noises and performance boost. Practical limits in terms of control input, rotor speed, sampling frequency and noises of the gyroscope, the tachometer and the acceleration sensor were taken into account in this research. The results show that the proposed control system leads to fast and smooth yaw turns even at a high pitch angle (close to vertical) or in the case of being hit by external objects.
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