During the development of next generation tactical aircraft, thermal management is given significant consideration due to higher transient cooling demands, with stricter temperature limits along with the smaller size and weight in the cooling system hardware. Traditional control approaches, such as proportional-integral-derivative (PID), are sufficient to achieve the desired steady-state error performance for a thermal system with no constraints on the control inputs. The traditional control techniques may not be well-suited for thermal systems with constrained inputs. In this paper, we apply the Model Predictive Control (MPC) technique on an input-constrained thermal system and examine the system performance under a large transient thermal load and control input limits through the anticipation of the known thermal load. The results include design and implementation of an MPC controller for a high-fidelity, nonlinear vapor compression cycle model, as well as comparison of the MPC results to those of a finely tuned PID controller.

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