Section: Research Program
Optimization and control of fluid flows with visual servoing
Fluid flow control is a recent and active research domain. A significant part of the work carried out so far in that field has been dedicated to the control of the transition from laminarity to turbulence. Delaying, accelerating or modifying this transition is of great economical interest for industrial applications. For instance, it has been shown that for an aircraft, a drag reduction can be obtained while enhancing the lift, leading consequently to limit fuel consumption. In contrast, in other application domains such as industrial chemistry, turbulence phenomena are encouraged to improve heat exchange, increase the mixing of chemical components and enhance chemical reactions. Similarly, in military and civilians applications where combustion is involved, the control of mixing by means of turbulence handling rouses a great interest, for example to limit infra-red signatures of fighter aircraft.
Flow control can be achieved in two different ways: passive or active control. Passive control provides a permanent action on a system. Most often it consists in optimizing shapes or in choosing suitable surfacing (see for example  where longitudinal riblets are used to reduce the drag caused by turbulence). The main problem with such an approach is that the control is, of course, inoperative when the system changes. Conversely, in active control the action is time varying and adapted to the current system's state. This approach requires an external energy to act on the system through actuators enabling a forcing on the flow through for instance blowing and suction actions  ,  . A closed-loop problem can be formulated as an optimal control issue where a control law minimizing an objective cost function (minimization of the drag, minimization of the actuators power, etc.) must be applied to the actuators  . Most of the works of the literature indeed comes back to open-loop control approaches  ,  ,  or to forcing approaches  with control laws acting without any feedback information on the flow actual state. In order for these methods to be operative, the model used to derive the control law must describe as accurately as possible the flow and all the eventual perturbations of the surrounding environment, which is very unlikely in real situations. In addition, as such approaches rely on a perfect model, a high computational costs is usually required. This inescapable pitfall has motivated a strong interest on model reduction. Their key advantage being that they can be specified empirically from the data and represent quite accurately, with only few modes, complex flows' dynamics. This motivates an important research axis in the Fluminance group.
Another important part of the works conducted in Fluminance concerns the study of closed-loop approaches, for which the convergence of the system to a target state is ensured even in the presence of errors (related either to the flow model, the actuators, or the sensors)  . However, designing a closed loop control law requires the use of sensors that are both non-intrusive, accurate and adapted to the time and spacial scales of the phenomenon to monitor. Such sensors are unfortunately hardly available in the context of flow control. The only sensors currently used are wall sensors located in a limited set of measurement points  ,  . The difficulty is then to reconstruct the entire state of the controlled system from a model based only on the few measurements available on the walls  . Instead of relying on sparse measurements, we propose to use denser features estimated from images. With the capabilities of up-to-date imaging sensors, we can expect an improved reconstruction of the flow (both in space and time) enabling the design of efficient image based control laws. This formulation is referred to as visual servoing control scheme.
Visual servoing is a widely used technique for robot control. It consists in using data provided by a vision sensor for controlling the motions of a robot  . This technique, historically embedded in the larger domain of sensor-based control  , can be properly used to control complex robotic systems or, as we showed it recently, flows  .
Classically, to achieve a visual servoing task, a set of visual features, , has to be selected from visual measurements, , extracted from a current image. A control law is then designed so that these visual features reach a desired value, , related to the target state of the system. The control principle consists in regulating to zero the error vector: . To build the control law, the knowledge of the so-called interaction matrix is usually required. This matrix links the time variation of to the signal command . However, computing this matrix in the context of flow control is far more complex than in the case of robot control as flows are associated to chaotic nonlinear systems living in infinite dimensional spaces. As such, it is possible to formalize the model through a Galerkin projection in terms of an ODE system for which classical control laws can be applied. It is also possible to express the system with finite difference approximations and to use discrete time control algorithms amenable to modern micro-controllers. Alternatively, one may develop control methods directly on the infinite dimensional system and then finally discretize the resulting process for implementation purpose. Each approach has its own advantages and drawbacks. For the first two, known control methods can be used at the expense of a great sensibility to space discretization. The last one is less sensitive to discretization errors but more difficult to set up. These practical issues and their related theoretical difficulties make this study a very interesting field of research.