In this paper we consider output feedback tracking of ships with position and orientation measurements only. Ship dynamics are highly nonlinear, and for tracking control, as opposed to dynamic positioning, these nonlinearities have to be taken into account in the control design. We propose an observer-controller scheme which takes into account the complete ship dynamics, including Coriolis and centripetal forces and nonlinear damping, and prove that the closed-loop system is semi-globally uniformly stable. Furthermore, a gain tuning procedure for the observer controller scheme is developed.
Experimental results are presented where the observer-controller scheme is implemented onboard a Froude scaled 1:70 model supply ship. The experimentally obtained results are compared with simulation results under ideal conditions and both support the theoretical results on semi-global exponential stability of the closed-loop system.