Design of an Autonomous Fixed-Wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Open Access
Maloney, Blake Anthony
Area of Honors:
Mechanical Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Henry Joseph Sommer Iii, Thesis Supervisor
  • Zoubeida Ounaies, Honors Advisor
  • mechanical engineering
  • uav
  • drone
  • mission planner
  • autonomous
Unmanned aerial vehicles have the ability to monitor plant health when equipped with certain types of cameras that allow for visualization of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The result is a color-coded image that highlights areas that are in bad health and in need of maintenance. When utilized for maintenance of large crops, the unmanned aerial vehicles allow for maintenance optimization and overall cost reduction. This stage of the research focuses on the construction of an autopilot, fixed-wing aircraft that is capable of performing these flights. After experimentation with manual flight and simulated flights, a flying wing airframe was equipped with autopilot hardware and programmed to fly missions of appropriate length. A mission was successfully planned but the plane did not finish the mission due to a minor error that caused it to stray from the designated path. Further work should involve the installation of cameras modified for NDVI images. This thesis was completed as part of Dr. H.J. Sommer's Unmanned Aircraft for Agricultural Applications (UAAA) research initiative, which supports the development and testing of new methods for inspecting and treating plants, soil, and water using unmanned aircraft.