Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Systems Engineering


Department of Systems Engineering and Management

First Advisor

David R. Jacques, PhD.


This thesis documents the research effort to develop, integrate and implement the system hardware and the software necessary to validate the Air Force Institute of Technology's theoretical advances in small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) cooperative control. The end state objective of the research effort was to flight test an autonomous control algorithm on a communication relay unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was actively relaying data to and from a rover UAV. The relay UAV is one part of a SUAS designed to utilize cooperative control to extend the effective line-of-sight operating range for a rover UAV. An algorithm is integrated into ground control software that takes telemetry data (the current position of the ground station, rover UAV, and relay UAV) to determine where to navigate the relay aircraft for optimal communication signal strength. The ground station operator flies the rover aircraft in the extended line-of-sight operational envelope just as she/he would in the normal line-of-sight operations. The relay UAV is autonomously routed to the optimal communications relay position. The research yielded a SUAS based on the Ardupilot Mega 2.0. Flight testing demonstrated the SUAS's ability to generate the correct navigation data autonomously; however, the navigation data was not successfully activated as current waypoints on the relay UAV 's autopilot. Software in the loop testing was utilized to verify a solution to activate the navigation data but flight testing was not conducted to verify the simulation results.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number