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This paper focuses on a critical component of the situational awareness, the control of autonomous vertical flight for an unmanned aerial vehicle. Autonomous vertical flight is a challenging but important task for tactical unmanned aerial vehicles to achieve high level of autonomy under adverse conditions. With the situational awareness strategy, we proposed a two stage flight control procedure using three autonomous control subsystems to address the dynamics variation and performance requirement difference in initial and final stages of flight trajectory for a nontrivial nonlinear quadrotor helicopter model. This control strategy for chosen helicopter model has been verified by simulation of hovering manoeuvres using software package Simulink and demonstrated good performance for fast situational awareness in real-time search-and-rescue operations.