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This paper investigates a nonlinear speed control scheme for a brushless DC motor (BLDC) drive. In order to achieve high performance speed tracking, an adaptive backstepping controller is designed to obtain the reference voltage for the pulse width modulation (PWM) control which does not require the traditional PI controller. To regulate the dynamics of the drive system, the proposed controller is designed to track a desired linear reference model. With the proposed control scheme, The system possesses the advantages of good speed tracking performance and robustness to the parametric uncertainties and disturbance. The effectiveness of the proposed control scheme is verified by the simulation results.