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Helical polynomial curves interpolating G1 data with prescribed axes and pitch angles


A helical curve, or curve of constant slope, offers a natural flight path for an aerial vehicle with a limited climb rate to achieve an increase in altitude between prescribed initial and final states. Every polynomial helical curve is a spatial Pythagorean-hodograph (PH) curve, and the distinctive features of the PH curves have attracted growing interest in their use for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) path planning. This study describes an exact algorithm for constructing helical PH paths, corresponding to a constant climb rate at a given speed, between initial and final positions and motion directions. The algorithm bypasses the more sophisticated algebraic representations of spatial PH curves, and instead employs a simple “lifting” scheme to generate helical PH paths from planar PH curves constructed using the complex representation. In this context, a novel scheme to construct planar quintic PH curves that interpolate given end points and tangents, with exactly prescribed arc lengths, plays a key role. It is also shown that these helical paths admit simple closed-form rotation-minimizing adapted frames. The algorithm is simple, efficient, and robust, and can accommodate helical axes of arbitrary orientation through simple rotation transformations. Its implementation is illustrated by several computed examples.

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