The rapid development and formalization of adaptive signal processing algorithms loosely inspired by biological models can be potentially harnessed for use in flexible new learning control algorithms for nonlinear dynamic systems. However, if such controller designs are to be viable in practice, their stability must be guaranteed and their performance quantified. In this paper, the stable adaptive tracking control designs employing “neural” networks, initially presented in Sanner and Slotine (1992), are extended to classes of multivariable mechanical systems, including robot manipulators, and bounds are developed for the magnitude of the asymptotic tracking errors and the rate of convergence to these bounds. This new algorithm permits simultaneous learning and control, without recourse to an initial identification stage, and is distinguished from previous stable adaptive robotic controllers, e.g. (Slotine and Li 1987), by the relative lack of structure assumed in the design of the control law. The required control is simply considered to contain unknown functions of the measured state variables, and adaptive “neural” networks are used to stably determine, in real time, the entire required functional dependence. While computationally more complex than explicitly model-based techniques, the methods developed in this paper may be effectively applied to the control of many physical systems for which the state dependence of the dynamics is reasonably well understood, but the exact functional form of this dependence, or part thereof, is not, such as underwater robotic vehicles and high performance aircraft.

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