Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

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.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number