In the continuously evolving landscape of marine technology and robotics, a significant breakthrough has emerged from the work of scientists at Tianjin University. A cutting-edge article published on January 7, 2024, in ISA Transactions outlines the development of an advanced adaptive control scheme that promises to enhance the capabilities and performance of Underwater Gliders (UGs), which are vital tools for oceanographic research and environmental monitoring.

The research paper, co-authored by Zou Haoming, Zhang Guoshan, and Hao Jun from the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at Tianjin University, describes the formulation of an Adaptive Finite-time Composite Control (AFTCC) scheme. This system addresses several challenges that typically arise within the control of UGs, such as actuator physical constraints, uncertain dynamics of the marine environment, and the presence of external disturbances.

Underwater gliders, a class of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), operate by modulating their buoyancy and using wings to glide through the water column. They are a cost-effective and enduring option for collecting oceanographic data over extended periods and vast areas. However, to successfully accomplish their missions, UGs must be equipped with precise and dependable control systems to navigate challenging and unpredictable underwater terrains.

The AFTCC scheme incorporates several novel components into a cohesive framework

Nonsingular Fast Terminal Sliding Mode Control (NFTSMC): This innovative control law introduces a response mechanism that circumvents the singular problems encountered in classical sliding mode controls, notably reducing chattering – a form of high-frequency, undesirable oscillation  and ensuring finite-time convergence of the UG’s system states.

Fixed-time Extended State Observer (FxTESO): A crucial element of the AFTCC, the FxTESO accurately estimates the UG’s pitch angular velocity and compensates for lumped disturbances from the environment within a fixed timeframe.

Adaptive Fixed-time Saturation Compensation System (AFxTSCS): Factoring in the physical limitations of actuators, the AFxTSCS adeptly adjusts its parameters to optimize control effectiveness whether the actuators are saturated or operating normally.

In an interview, lead researcher Zou Haoming remarked, “The complexities involved in underwater glider control are immense due to the unpredictable nature of marine environments and the inherent design constraints of the gliders themselves. Our work aims to address these challenges with a comprehensive and adaptive solution.”

The research grounds its success on the robust foundation of Lyapunov stability theory. Simulation results have attested to the practicability and superiority of this advanced control methodology. The proposed AFTCC demonstrates a notable improvement in pitch angle trajectory tracking for UGs, a critical factor that influences their operational efficiency and maneuverability during missions.

The implications of this research are far-reaching, and the advanced control scheme has the potential to significantly extend the operational capabilities of UGs. This could lead to more accurate data collection in oceanographic surveys, more reliable monitoring of marine ecosystems, and improved success rates in search-and-rescue missions or undersea equipment maintenance tasks.

For those interested in the detailed workings of the AFTCC scheme, the full article can be found on the ISA Transactions journal under the Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.isatra.2024.01.005. The authors, having declared no competing financial interests or personal relationships, affirm the integrity and driven purpose of their contributions to the field.


1. Zou, H., Zhang, G., & Hao, J. (2024). Nonsingular fast terminal sliding mode tracking control for underwater glider with actuator physical constraints. ISA Transactions, DOI: 10.1016/j.isatra.2024.01.005.

2. Fossen, T. I. (2011). Handbook of marine craft hydrodynamics and motion control. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

3. Li, Z., & Yang, C. (2018). A review of control algorithms for autonomous underwater vehicles. International Journal of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering, 10(1), 100-111.

4. Krieg, M., & Mohseni, K. (2016). Underwater glider dynamics and control. In Underwater Vehicles (pp. 123-156). InTech.

5. Lefeber, E., Pettersen, K. Y., & Nijmeijer, H. (2003). Tracking control of an AUV by a path following a PD controller with feedforward. Control Engineering Practice, 11(12), 1475-1487.


1. Underwater Glider Control
2. Adaptive Control Underwater Vehicles
3. Marine Robotics Advancements
4. Autonomous Ocean Monitoring
5. Sliding Mode Control AUV

The advancements detailed in this article represent a quantum leap in underwater vehicle technology, reflecting the incessant drive for innovation within the field of marine robotics. As underwater gliders become increasingly indispensable tools for exploring the mysteries and monitoring the health of our oceans, this trailblazing adaptive control scheme serves as a beacon guiding the future endeavors of marine scientists and engineers.