The paper reports the design and tests of the planar autopilot navigation system in the three-degree-of-freedom (3-DOF) plane (surge, sway and yaw) for a ship. The aim of the tests was to check the improved maneuverability of the ship in open waters using the improved nonlinear control algorithm, developed based on the sliding mode control theory for the ship-trajectory tracking problem of under-actuated ships with static constraints, actuator saturation, and parametric uncertainties. With the integration of the simple increment feedback control law, the dynamic control strategy was developed to fulfill the under-actuated tracking and stabilization objectives. In addition, the LOS (line of sight) guidance system was applied to control the motion path, whereas the sliding mode controller was used to emulate the rudder angle and propeller rotational speed control. Firstly, simulation tests were performed to verify the validity of the basic model and the tracking control algorithm. Subsequently, full scale maneuverability tests were done with a novel container ship, equipped with trajectory tracking control and sliding mode controller algorithm, to check the dynamic stability performance of the ship. The results of the theoretical and numerical simulation on a training ship verify the invariability and excellent robustness of the proposed controller, which: effectively eliminates system chattering, solves the problem of lateral drift of the ship, and maintains the following of the trajectory while simultaneously achieving global stability and robustness.
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