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An adaptive sliding mode control scheme for container cranes is investigated in this study. A sliding surface is designed in such a way that the sway motion of the payload is incorporated into the trolley dynamics. Included in the proposed control law is a varying control gain, obtained by an adaptation law, which transitions the system into the sliding mode. The control law guarantees the asymptotic stability of the closed-loop system. To demonstrate the efficiency of the proposed algorithm, experimental results are provided.