Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Systems Engineering and Management

First Advisor

John M. Colombi, PhD.


Craig Reynolds, in the seminal research into simulated flocking, developed a methodology to guide a flock of birds using three rules: collision avoidance, flock centering, and velocity matching. By modifying these rules, a methodology was created so that each aircraft in a flock maintains a precise position relative to the preceding aircraft. By doing so, each aircraft experiences a decrease in induced aerodynamic drag and increase in fuel efficiency. Flocks of semi-autonomous aircraft present the warfighter with a wide array of capabilities for accomplishing missions more effectively. By introducing formation drag reduction, overall fuel consumption is reduced while range and endurance increase, expanding war planners' options. A simulation was constructed to determine the feasibility of the drag reduction flock in a two-dimensional environment using a drag benefit map constructed from existing research. Due to both agent interaction and wind gust variability, the optimal position for drag reduction presented a severe collision hazard, and drag savings were much more sensitive to lateral (wingtip) position than longitudinal (streamwise) position. By increasing longitudinal spacing, the collision hazard was greatly reduced and a 10-aircraft flock demonstrated a 9.7% reduction in total drag and 14.5% increase in endurance over a mock target.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number