Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Michael D. Zollars, PhD


The work herein investigates the preliminary designs of an optimal navigation controller for a scalable cylindrical airdrop system controlled with grid fins in planar motion. Precision airdrop capabilities are desired for a range of military and humanitarian missions. Fielded airdrop systems have not met desired performance objectives, particularly regarding accuracy. Direct collocation and analytical methods were utilized to solve the optimal control problem for the grid fin controlled precision airdrop system examined in this work. The optimal control problem was comprised of two phases: controlled descent and parachute descent. Minimum and maximum ranges for the system under varying wind fields were calculated to bound the error allowed on the computed air release point. A control law algorithm and mission flowchart were designed. Finally, the complete proposed methodology was tested for robustness against perturbations in initial conditions. Results indicate promising accuracy and computational speed for analytical methods. These trajectories can be used as a baseline for future precision airdrop systems to improve accuracy when dropped in real-world scenarios.

AFIT Designator



A 12-month embargo was observed.

Approved for public release. Case number on file.