A Game Theory Analysis of Sailplane Racing

Open Access
Grasser, Nicholas Jared
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Aerospace Engineering and Mathematics
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Mark David Maughmer, Thesis Supervisor
  • Mark David Maughmer, Honors Advisor
  • Diane Marie Henderson, Honors Advisor
  • Robert Graham Melton, Faculty Reader
  • George A Lesieutre, Faculty Reader
  • Sailplane
  • Soaring
  • Game Theory
  • Thermal
The sport of soaring allows pilots a multitude of decisions that influence the outcome of a competition. From how fast to fly, what altitude to enter and exit thermals, and who to fly with, each pilot can create a strategy to best fit his skill set and yield the best chance of victory. This paper examines and groups a multitude of tactical decisions into two overarching strategies, conservative flying and aggressive flying. Through simulation of single and multiple day competitions, these strategies are examined to determine which situations necessitate their use. As will be shown, the aggressive strategy has a greater chance of winning a single day competition. As the number of days of the competition increases, the chances of obtaining a high place will increase when using the conservative strategy and will decrease when using the aggressive strategy.