Sean E. Wolf

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Operational Sciences

First Advisor

Raymond R. Hill, PhD.


A dataset of 854 small unmanned aerial system (SUAS) flight experiments from 2005-2009 is analyzed to determine significant factors that contribute to mishaps. The data from 29 airframes of different designs and technology readiness levels were aggregated. 20 measured parameters from each flight experiment are investigated, including wind speed, pilot experience, number of prior flights, pilot currency, etc. Outcomes of failures (loss of flight data) and damage (injury to airframe) are classified by logistic regression modeling and artificial neural network analysis. From the analysis, it can be concluded that SUAS damage is a random event that cannot be predicted with greater accuracy than guessing. Failures can be predicted with greater accuracy (38.5% occurrence, model hit rate 69.6%). Five significant factors were identified by both the neural networks and logistic regression. SUAS prototypes risk failures at six times the odds of their commercially manufactured counterparts. Likewise, manually controlled SUAS have twice the odds of experiencing a failure as those autonomously controlled. Wind speeds, pilot experience, and pilot currency were not found to be statistically significant to flight outcomes. The implications of these results for decision makers, range safety officers and test engineers are discussed.

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