Obtaining precise attitude information is essential for aircraft navigation and control. This paper presents the results of the attitude determination using an in-house designed low-cost MEMS-based flight information measurement unit. This study proposes a quaternion-based extended Kalman filter to integrate the traditional quaternion and gravitational force decomposition methods for attitude determination algorithm. The proposed extended Kalman filter utilizes the evolution of the four elements in the quaternion method for attitude determination as the dynamic model, with the four elements as the states of the filter. The attitude angles obtained from the gravity computations and from the electronic magnetic sensors are regarded as the measurement of the filter. The immeasurable gravity accelerations are deduced from the outputs of the three axes accelerometers, the relative accelerations, and the accelerations due to body rotation. The constraint of the four elements of the quaternion method is treated as a perfect measurement and is integrated into the filter computation. Approximations of the time-varying noise variances of the measured signals are discussed and presented with details through Taylor series expansions. The algorithm is intuitive, easy to implement, and reliable for long-term high dynamic maneuvers. Moreover, a set of flight test data is utilized to demonstrate the success and practicality of the proposed algorithm and the filter design.
Keywords: attitude determination; extended Kalman filter; flight information measurement unit; quaternion.