Autonomous underwater gliders have become valuable tools for a myriad of applications ranging from ocean exploration to fish tracking to environmental sampling. To be suitable for these types of applications, precise sensing and monitoring is desired, which makes accurate trajectory control important. However, highly nonlinear under-actuated dynamics present significant challenges in control of gliders. In this work a backstepping-based controller is proposed for an underwater glider to track a desired position and heading reference in the sagittal plane with only two control inputs, the buoyancy and center of gravity along the longitudinal direction. In particular,the under-actuation issue is addressed by exploiting the coupled dynamics and introducing a new modified error that combines the tracking errors of heading and position references. In addition, an auxiliary system is incorporated to account for input constraints. Finally, a sliding mode observer is designed to obtain the estimates of body-fixed velocities, to facilitate practical implementation of the designed controller. The effectiveness of the proposed control scheme is demonstrated via simulations and its advantages are shown via comparison with a PID controller.

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