Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name



Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Nabil G. Chalhoub


The focus of the current work is on providing experimental validation for the robust performance and good tracking characteristic of a surge speed controller for autonomous piloting of an under-actuated 16 ft boat in the completely uncontrolled setting of open-water Lake Saint Clair, Michigan. The controller is designed based on the sliding mode methodology and completely ignores the dynamics of the marine surface vessel (MSV) in its formulation. The testing was conducted under considerable unstructured uncertainties and unpredictable environmental disturbances induced by waves, sea-currents, and wind. The experimental results serve to validate the robust tracking characteristic of the controller and prove the successful implementation of the controller without prior knowledge of the system dynamics; thus, yielding a robust model-less controller.