Zetian Zhang

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Raghvendra V. Cowlagi, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Michael A. Demetriou, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Jie Fu, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Andrew Clark, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Nikhil Karanjgaokar, Committee Member




Motion-planning is an essential component of autonomous aerial and terrestrial vehicles. The canonical Motion-planning problem, which is widely studied in the literature, is of planning point-to-point motion while avoiding obstacles. However, the desired degree of vehicular autonomy has steadily risen, and has consequently led to motion-planning problems where a vehicle is required to accomplish a high-level intelligent task, rather than simply move between two points. One way of specifying such intelligent tasks is via linear temporal logic (LTL) formulae. LTL is a formal logic system that includes temporal operators such as always, eventually, and until besides the usual logical operators. For autonomous vehicles, LTL formulae can concisely express tasks such as persistent surveillance, safety requirements, and temporal orders of visits to multiple locations. Recent control theoretic literature has discussed the generation of reference trajectories and/or the synthesis of feedback control laws to enable a vehicle to move in manners that satisfy LTL specifications. A crucial step in such synthesis is the generation of a so-called discrete abstraction of a vehicle kinematic/dynamic model. Typical techniques of generating a discrete abstraction require strong assumptions on controllability and/or linearity. This dissertation discusses fast motion-planning and control techniques to satisfy LTL specifications for vehicle models with nonholonomic kinematic constraints, which do not satisfy the aforesaid assumptions. The main contributions of this dissertation are as follows.

First, we present a new technique for constructing discrete abstractions of a Dubins vehicle model (namely, a vehicle that moves forward at a constant speed with a minimum turning radius). This technique relies on the so-called method of lifted graphs and precomputed reachable set calculations. Using this technique, we provide an algorithm to generate vehicle reference trajectories satisfying LTL specifications without requiring complete controllability in the presence of workspace constraints, and without requiring linearity or linearization of the vehicle model. Second, we present a technique for centralized motion-planning for a team of vehicles to collaboratively satisfy a common LTL specification. This technique is also based on the method of lifted graphs. Third, we present an incremental version of the proposed motion-planning techniques, which has an “anytime" property. This property means that a feasible solution is computed quickly, and the iterative updates are made to this solution with a guarantee of convergence to an optimal solution. This version is suited for real-time implementation, where a hard bound on the computation time is imposed. Finally, we present a randomized sampling-based technique for generating reference trajectories that satisfy given LTL specifications. This technique is an alternative to the aforesaid technique based on lifted graphs. We illustrate the proposed techniques using numerical simulation examples. We demonstrate the superiority of the proposed techniques in comparison to the existing literature in terms of computational time and memory requirements.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Aerospace Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Linear Temporal Logic Specifications Motion Planning