This paper investigates a nonlinear control design for trajectory tracking and rate of penetration (ROP) control of the vertical downhole drilling process. The drilling system dynamics are first built incorporating the coupled axial and torsional dynamics together with a velocity-independent drill bit–rock interaction model. Given the underactuated, nonlinear, and nonsmooth feature of the drilling dynamics, we propose a control design that can prevent significant downhole vibrations, enable accurate tracking, and achieve desired rate of penetration. It can also ensure robustness against modeling uncertainties and external disturbances. The controller is designed using a sequence of hyperplanes given in a cascade structure. The tracking control is achieved in two phases, where in the first phase the drilling system states converge to a high-speed drilling regime free of stick–slip behavior, and in the second phase, the error dynamics can asymptotically converge. Finally, we provide simulation results considering different case studies to evaluate the efficacy and the robustness of the proposed control approach.

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