This paper presents an algorithm for velocity-aided attitude estimation for helicopter aircraft using a microelectromechanical system inertial-measurement unit. In general, high- performance gyroscopes are used for estimating the attitude of a helicopter, but this type of sensor is very expensive. When designing a cost-effective attitude system, attitude can be estimated by fusing a low cost accelerometer and a gyro, but the disadvantage of this method is its relatively low accuracy. The accelerometer output includes a component that occurs primarily as the aircraft turns, as well as the gravitational acceleration. When estimating attitude, the accelerometer measurement terms other than gravitational ones can be considered as disturbances. Therefore, errors increase in accordance with the flight dynamics. The proposed algorithm is designed for using velocity as an aid for high accuracy at low cost. It effectively eliminates the disturbances of accelerometer measurements using the airspeed. The algorithm was verified using helicopter experimental data. The algorithm performance was confirmed through a comparison with an attitude estimate obtained from an attitude heading reference system based on a high accuracy optic gyro, which was employed as core attitude equipment in the helicopter.
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