Towards Automatic Steering of Underactuated Ships

Hengameh Noshahri*, Theo J.A. de Vries, Job van Amerongen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Simple control solutions for steering underactuated ships have been seldom studied in literature. This paper provides a control method for automatic steering of underactuated ships in presence of disturbances and in uncertain environmental conditions. A mathematical model of ship dynamics is developed and validated. Our control method involves introduction of a preparation phase consisting of three algorithms. Waypoints leading to every desired set-point are defined and a continuous Dubins path is generated between these waypoints. A second-order motion profile is assigned to the path to suggest the speed with the best timing for the voyage. The control objective is reformulated from a tracking problem to a regulating problem by changing coordinates of the reference signal. PD-controllers are employed in closed loop to reduce position and heading error. The controller parameters are set in the design phase and do not need additional tuning for different trajectories and ship parameters. Weather information together with the planned motion profile are used in a feedforward controller design to achieve better disturbance rejection and higher accuracy. Performance and robustness of the design are evaluated in simulation by Course-keeping and Course-changing experiments in extreme and uncertain environmental conditions. While the developed control method is simple compared to the methods in literature, it can still achieve quite satisfactory steering performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-121
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event12th IFAC Conference on Control Applications in Marine Systems, Robotics, and Vehicles, CAMS 2019 - Daejeon, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 18 Sept 201920 Sept 2019
Conference number: 12


  • Algorithms
  • Autonomous control
  • Control system design
  • Marine systems
  • Mathematical models
  • Path planning


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