Aerial manipulation of deformable objects

MSc assignment


Robotic aerial manipulation systems have met a ceaseless growth in the past decade. Aerial robots have been endowed with manipulation capabilities through a variety of tools, including grippers, rigid tools, multi-dof arms, and cables. However, modeling and control of deformable aerial manipulation systems remain challenging. Even capturing the behavior of a deformable cable is not trivial, and cables have been often approximated as inextensible linear elements. Sometimes, the cable connected to the aerial robot has been modeled as an elastic spring [1], or a series of rigid links interconnected by passive spherical joints [2] [3] [4].

The objective of this assignment is to compute the model and design the control law of a complex system composed of multiple aerial robots physically connected through a net of cables. The student will be required to

  • compute the dynamic equations of the system;
  • simulate the robotic system using a dynamic simulator at choice, e.g., Matlab Simulink or Gazebo;
  • investigate the properties of the system, e.g., will look for differentially flat outputs of interest;
  • design a model-based control law;
  • analytically prove the stability of the closed-loop system;
  • validate the performance of the controller with numerical simulations.

The main related research questions are:

  1. Which is a dynamic model that encodes the behavior of an aerial multi-robot system embedding a deformable net and that is suitable to be simulated and used for control design?
  2. Which are the flat outputs of a system composed of multiple aerial robots physically connected by a net?
  3. What control law can be used to control a multi-robot system composed of aerial robots physically connected through a net?


The main prerequisites for the student are:

  • having passed the Control for UAV class
  • expertise in control engineering
  • background in mechanical engineering and/or robotics
  • independence in analytical and mathematical work
  • ability to code simulations in Matlab Simulink or Gazebo

This MSc thesis will take place within the scope of the H2020 Aerial-Core European project.


If you are interested please contact both Chiara Gabellieri <> and Antonio Franchi <> mentioning in the  subject "Aerial manipulation of deformable objects " and attaching to the email:

  • a CV
  • a motivation letter explaining why you want and are best suited for this assignment
  • a list of exams with grades


[1]: Tognon, M., Gabellieri, C., Pallottino, L., and Franchi, A. "Aerial co-manipulation with cables: The role of internal force for equilibria, stability, and passivity." IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters 3.3 (2018): 2577-2583.
[2]: Kotaru, P., and Sreenath, K. "Multiple quadrotors carrying a flexible hose: dynamics, differential flatness and control." IFAC-PapersOnLine 53.2 (2020): 8832-8839.
[3]: Kotaru, P., Wu, G., and Sreenath, K. "Differential-flatness and control of quadrotor (s) with a payload suspended through flexible cable (s)." 2018 Indian Control Conference (ICC). IEEE, 2018.
[4]: Goodarzi, F. A., Lee, D., and Lee, T. "Geometric stabilization of a quadrotor UAV with a payload connected by flexible cable." 2014 American Control Conference. IEEE, 2014.