Date of Award
Master of Science
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Paul A. Blue, PhD
The Air Force Institute of Technology's (AFIT) Advanced Navigation Technology (ANT) Center has recently delved into the research topic of small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). One area of particular interest is using multiple small UAVs cooperatively to improve mission efficiency, as well as perform missions that couldn't be performed using vehicles independently. However, many of these missions require that the UAVs operate in close proximity of each other. This research lays the foundation required to use the ANT Center's UAVs for multi-vehicle missions (e.g. cooperatively) by accomplishing two major goals. First, it develops test procedures that can be used to characterize the tracking performance of a small UAV being controlled by a waypoint guided autopilot. This defines the size of the safety zones that must be maintained around each vehicle to ensure no collisions, assuming no, as yet unspecified, collision avoidance algorithm is being implemented. Secondly, a formation flight algorithm is developed that can be used to guide UAVs relative to each other using a waypoint guided autopilot. This is done by dynamically changing the waypoints. Such an approach gives a "wrap-around" method of cooperatively controlling UAVs that can only be guided waypoint-to-waypoint. For both components of this research, tests were conducted using a hardware-in-the-loop (HITL) simulation before validating through flight testing. This report, along with legacy documentation and procedures, furthers the UAV test bed at AFIT and establishes methods for simulating, visualizing, and flight testing multiple UAVs during formation/cooperative flight.
DTIC Accession Number
McCarthy, Patrick A., "Characterization of UAV Performance and Development of a Formation Flight Controller for Multiple Small UAVs" (2006). Theses and Dissertations. 3546.