Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Robert Leishman, PhD


All military and commercial aircraft must undergo frequent visual inspections in order to identify damage that could pose a danger to safety of flight. Currently, these inspections are primarily conducted by maintenance personnel. Inspectors must scrutinize the aircraft’s surface to find and document defects such as dents, hail damage, broken fasteners, etc.; this is a time consuming, tedious, and hazardous process. The goal of this work is to develop a visual inspection system which can be used by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and to test the feasibility of this system on military aircraft. Using an autonomous system in place of trained personnel will improve the safety and efficiency of the inspection process. Open-source software for coverage path planning (CPP) is modified and used to create a path from which the UAV can view the entire top surface of the aircraft. Simulated and experimental flight testing is conducted to validate the generated paths by collecting imagery, flight data, and coverage estimates. Simulation is also used to predict UAV performance for an inspection of a full-size aircraft. Analysis shows that multirotor UAVs are a viable inspection platform for military aircraft.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number