University of Malta

Avionics Postgrad
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Student: Matthew Micallef
Supervisor: Prof. Ing. D. Zammit Mangion
Level: M.Sc. By Research, Start Date: 2010, Status: Ongoing   
Funding: Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) R&I Grant 


Aviation CO2 emissions is  a problem world wide and also locally. In this work the current flight  management techniques adopted at Malta international airport would be analysed  to log the average emissions being emitted during departures and arrivals. To  date, Malta’s air traffic services (ATC) does not have any tools to ensure  efficient routes which aircraft can follow when departing and arriving at  Malta’s aerodrome. In this work, engineering techniques and  tools would be adopted to develop new efficient air traffic management strategies  and routes for aircraft in ascents and descents, tailored for Malta’s  international airport (LMML) to reduce C02 emissions. Area Navigation  (RNAV) SIDs and STARs would be proposed for LMML, which would allow ATC  to assign efficient routes for aircraft arriving and departing from LMML.  Flight management computers, ensuring repeatability when following these efficient departure and arrival routes, can follow RNAV routes. For further  reductions in emissions, fuel optimised vertical routes could be superimposed on these energy efficient lateral routes to reduce further the CO2 emissions. One  of the main aims in this work, is to demonstrate the reduction in emissions  through the implementation of the proposed air traffic management techniques for arrivals and departures from Malta’s international airport.


Student: Christian Zammit
Supervisor: Prof. Ing. D. Zammit Mangion
Level: M.Sc. By Research, Start Date: 2010, Status: Ongoing   
Funding: EC FP7 ALICIA

Taxiing especially in low visibility is not  as easy as it seems and studies from different bodies show that ground  operations have their significant share of incidents and accidents. The main  aim of this Master’s thesis is to design an onboard system that is able to automatically manoeuvre a fixed wing aircraft through a predefined pre-assigned  taxiway in low visibility conditions. The system will ultimately reduce the  possibility of incidents and accidents as human errors are substantially  reduced. As  of today operational taxiing procedures in different weather conditions are  governed by aircraft type, airline or airport. Pilots, using these procedures, have then the responsibility to traverse taxiways through the aid of ground  controller communication, moving lights, markings, onboard systems and maps. The onboard system will be equipped with a  mathematical taxi ground model. 

The system’s inputs are:
    • Position:  GPS and GBAS systems
    • Orientation:  Digital Compass
    • Taxiway Clearance: ATC and ASDE-X

The system’s outputs are:
     • Differential  Thrust
     • Differential  Braking
     • Tiller Steering

Then a controller coupled with the model will  ultimately achieve the auto taxiing functionality using the system’s inputs and outputs.


Student: Kevin Theuma
Supervisor: Prof. Ing. D. Zammit Mangion
Level: M.Sc. By Research, Start Date: 2012, Status: Ongoing   
Funding: STEPS



Airfield guidance systems for aircrafts are  important especially when the visibility is low or reduced. Systems such as GPS  and INS are used for this purpose, however they are quite inaccurate. Therefore  these systems are usually used in combination of each other so as to improve  the reliability of the calculated aircraft position. A good example is DGPS in  which GPS data is enhanced by using reference stations to correct errors. Research is being done on vision based  navigation systems, with the main purpose of controlling aircraft. Better  results are obtained when using data fusion techniques to combine this kind of  data with that of other systems. Hence, a vision based solution for airfield  guidance is an attractive area of research. 
Project Objectives
The main objective of this project is to  design and develop a system which can control the aircraft to automatically  perform taxiing operations using image analysis and processing techniques. The  algorithm has to be implemented on FPGAs which are embedded devices with  configurable logic gates. This means that resources are limited, yet a  real-time response is expected for correct operation since the aircraft will be  moving at certain speeds. One of the most challenging tasks in this  project is to make it work for all weather operations. In weather conditions  such as fog and rain, the visibility is low or reduced, this making it harder  to see the taxiway and its markings. Since the system being developed is based  on vision, such conditions can be problematic. However with elaborate and  extensive work, the system can be adapted to work even in these kind of  situations. 
Project Methodologies
The first step of the project is an  extensive literature review in which a lot of research is done on image based  navigation systems. Research is also done on airport and aircraft operations  and on the equipment used. The literate review is ongoing till the deadline of the project. The setup will consist of 3 different  cameras, one at the front of the aircraft and the other two at the sides. For  each camera, an algorithm has to be designed and implemented on an FPGA. That  means that in total there will be 3 different algorithms. The one for the  camera at the front will calculate the angle and cross track error of the  aircraft from the centreline. The other two for the cameras at the sides will  calculate the distances between the aircraft and the sides of the taxiway. Prototypes of these algorithms will be  first designed on MATLAB. Then, these prototypes will be tested by inputting  different videos and checking the results. At this stage, the prototypes will  be improved even further so that better results are obtained. Afterwards, when  the results are satisfactory, the prototypes will be converted into FPGA  designs and they will be tested once again for verification. 


Student: Paul Zammit
Supervisor: Prof. Ing. D. Zammit Mangion
Level: M.Sc. By Research, Start Date: 2008, Status: Complete



In this work, the design and implementation of a  generic, computer system for unmanned vehicles (UVs) was tackled; more specifically, the UV targeted in this work was the micro unmanned vehicle (MUV)  for non-safety-critical applications. As the title implies, this system is to  be generic; therefore, it was not designed for any vehicle in particular. Also,  unlike most of the literature, the term ‘computer system’ was preferred over  autopilot system because the design here presented encompasses other features which are typically associated more with a computer system rather than an  autopilot system. Nevertheless, since the primary role of such a computer  system is indeed the autopilot function, in the following text, the terms  ‘autopilot system’ or merely ‘system’ were used as well. Various computer systems for unmanned vehicles, both  commercial and proposed in the literature were investigated and FPGA-DSP based  systems were found to be the most promising. FPGAs, however, incur a price and  power consumption penalty amongst other things. The limitations of the FPGA-DSP  approach, combined with the relatively small number of autopilot systems intended for micro unmanned vehicles currently available on the market motivate  this work. With this in mind, a new computer system architecture  for MUVs has been proposed. A prototype of the proposed system was then designed and built, and its electrical integrity and functionality were  verified. Field testing was then conducted in order to assess the performance of  the system. A GPS-aided inertial navigation algorithm based on the Kalman  filter was designed for this purpose and the system driven along a predefined  course. The execution speed of the system could therefore be assessed and the  collected data analyzed.

From the obtained results, it is shown that the  performance of FPGA-DSP systems can be achieved without the use of FPGAs. This results in a significantly cheaper design and a reduction in the power  consumption of 26.67%. Moreover, since the proposed system does not require  VHDL programming, it can also be claimed that the proposed system results in a  simpler design process. These advantages were obtained despite the fact that  the proposed system has a broader peripheral set.



Student: Ing. Nicholas Paul Borg
Supervisor: Prof. Ing. D. Zammit Mangion, Co-Supervisor: Dr. Ing Carl James Debono
Level: M.Sc. By Research, Start Date: 2011, Status: Complete


    This research focuses on the integration of a vision sensor to an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Navigation System, consisting of an Inertial Measurement Unit, GPS and a barometric altimeter. The use of Vision Sensing can be two-fold. Images can be used to determine the position and orientation of an airborne platform with respect to a known image template by applying feature extraction techniques. Additionally Video Tracking is used to correct the bias errors generated by the Inertial Unit using Sensor Fusion whenever a GPS outage occurs. These research areas have gained much interest in the last decade and as a result many algorithms have been developed. The main objectives of this project are to identify and address the technology gaps that exist in these two research areas. The first implementation focuses on the front-end of an existing and proven feature extraction algorithm. The proposed solution reduces its complexity by integrating information from available on-board sensors and parallel processing techniques of re-configurable hardware technology. The second implementation is a smart synchronization circuit that synchronizes and co-ordinates the sampling of data packets from the Inertial Measurement Unit, GPS and Camera prior to Sensor Fusion. All algorithms are implemented on a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) for increased flexibility, high-speed and high performance.

    Last Updated: 8 March 2016

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