An improved methodology for designing feedback control systems has been developed based on systematically shaping the loop gain of the system to meet performance requirements such as stability margins, disturbance attenuation, and transient response, while taking into account the actuation system limitations such as actuation rates and range. Loop-shaping for controls design is not new, but past techniques do not directly address how to systematically design the controller to maximize its performance. As a result, classical feedback control systems are designed predominantly using ad hoc control design approaches such as proportional integral derivative (PID), normally satisfied when a workable solution is achieved, without a good understanding of how to maximize the effectiveness of the control design in terms of competing performance requirements, in relation to the limitations of the plant design.

The conception of this improved methodology was motivated by challenges in designing control systems of the types needed for supersonic propulsion. But the methodology is generally applicable to any classical control-system design where the transfer function of the plant is known or can be evaluated. In the case of a supersonic aerospace vehicle, a major challenge is to design the system to attenuate anticipated external and internal disturbances, using such actuators as fuel injectors and valves, bypass doors, and ramps, all of which are subject to limitations in actuator response, rates, and ranges. Also, for supersonic vehicles, with long slim type of structures, coupling between the engine and the structural dynamics can produce undesirable effects that could adversely affect vehicle stability and ride quality.

In order to design distributed controls that can suppress these potential adverse effects, within the full capabilities of the actuation system, it is important to employ a systematic control design methodology such as this that can maximize the effectiveness of the control design in a methodical and quantifiable way.

The emphasis is in generating simple but rather powerful design techniques that will allow even designers with a layman’s knowledge in controls to develop effective feedback control designs. Unlike conventional ad hoc methodologies of feedback control design, in this approach actuator rates are incorporated into the design right from the start: The relation between actuator speeds and the desired control bandwidth of the system is established explicitly. The technique developed is demonstrated via design examples in a step-by-step tutorial way. Given the actuation system rates and range limits together with design specifications in terms of stability margins, disturbance rejection, and transient response, the procedure involves designing the feedback loop gain to meet the requirements and maximizing the control system effectiveness, without exceeding the actuation system limits and saturating the controller. Then knowing the plant transfer function, the procedure involves designing the controller so that the controller transfer function together with the plant transfer function equate to the designed loop gain. The technique also shows what the limitations of the controller design are and how to trade competing design requirements such as stability margins and disturbance rejection. Finally, the technique is contrasted against other more familiar control design techniques, like PID control, to show its advantages.

This work was done by George Kopasakis of Glenn Research Center. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at under the Manufacturing & Prototyping category.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18365-1.