Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Computer Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Kimon Valavanis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Abraham Kandel, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Steven Wilkerson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

MaryAnne Fields, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wilfrido A. Moreno, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Miguel Labrador, Ph.D.


mobile robots, aerospace control, helicopter control, helicopter reliability, modular computer systems


Miniature Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are currently being researched for a wide range of tasks, including search and rescue, surveillance, reconnaissance, traffic monitoring, fire detection, pipe and electrical line inspection, and border patrol to name only a few of the application domains. Although small / miniature UAVs, including both Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) vehicles and small helicopters, have shown great potential in both civilian and military domains, including research and development, integration, prototyping, and field testing, these unmanned systems / vehicles are limited to only a handful of university labs. For VTOL type aircraft the number is less than fifteen worldwide! This lack of development is due to both the extensive time and cost required to design, integrate and test a fully operational prototype as well as the shortcomings of published materials to fully describe how to design and build a "complete" and "operational" prototype system.

This dissertation overcomes existing barriers and limitations by describing and presenting in great detail every technical aspect of designing and integrating a small UAV helicopter including the on-board navigation controller, capable of fully autonomous takeoff, waypoint navigation, and landing. The presented research goes beyond previous works by designing the system as a testbed vehicle. This design aims to provide a general framework that will not only allow researchers the ability to supplement the system with new technologies but will also allow researchers to add innovation to the vehicle itself. Examples include modification or replacement of controllers, updated filtering and fusion techniques, addition or replacement of sensors, vision algorithms, Operating Systems (OS) changes or replacements, and platform modification or replacement. This is supported by the testbed's design to not only adhere to the technology it currently utilizes but to be general enough to adhere to a multitude of technology that have yet to be tested.

This research will allow labs without the proper expertise to build a safe and reliable vehicle that can provide them access to real world data thus increasing the effectiveness and validity of their research. It will also allow researchers working in simulation to quickly enter into UAV development without utilizing thousands of man hours to create an unmanned vehicle.

The presented research is designed to benefit the entire UAV researching community by allowing in depth access to an area of research that has been typically classified as too expensive and too time consuming to enter.