Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Richard G. Cobb, PhD.


This research develops a path planning algorithm that autonomously controls a UAV to provide convoy overwatch. The optimization algorithm determines the best path to y through developing a cost function that minimizes the control effort of the UAV and the deviation from a desired slant range. A heuristic-based algorithm was developed and implemented on the autopilot to approximate the optimal solution. In flight test, the UAV successfully tracked a moving ground vehicle by continually placing the UAV's loiter point directly above the ground vehicle's current location. This method was called the \follow-me mode and provided the baseline for real-world UAV convoy overwatch. The follow-me mode resulted in a cost function value that was 113 times greater than the optimal path. Through an in-depth analysis, the heuristic-based approach reduced this ratio down to only 7.5 times greater than the optimal path. The data collected shows tremendous promise for improving autonomous UAV performance through optimal control techniques.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number