Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Computer Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Marvin Andujar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chris S. Crawford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yu Sun, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Alfredo Weitzenfeld, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tansel Yucelen, Ph.D.


Drones, Modularity, Modular UAV, Military UAV


Multi-rotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (MR-UAV) are commonly used in a wide range of military operations. However, current MR-UAV models have limited payload capabilities and flight time, making it impractical for a single system to be well-suited for different applications. For instance, a drone designed to carry heavier equipment is not well suited for uses that require agility and speed. Therefore, military organizations employ multiple MR-UAV models, leading to complex logistics, training, and overall increased costs.

This dissertation presents a modular MR-UAV framework that allows a user to quickly tailor the aircraft for different military operations by easily changing modular parts of the system. The framework allows military operators to tailor the MR-UAV characteristics (flight time, size, weight, and maximum payload) and functionalities (sensors and actuators) by choosing different framework modules. This dissertation first presents a focus group research with subject matter experts to explore the concept and understand the user's requirements for a modular MR-UAV. Results from this study guided the design of the framework. During all three focus group sessions, participants expressed a need for an MR-UAV capable of switching from tethered to un-tethered flights. Therefore, this dissertation also presents the design and validation of a power management board that allows the modular MR-UAV to be powered from both power supplies (tethered and onboard battery) and switch its operation during flight. This work also presents a process to choose the hardware components (motors, propellers, electronic speed controllers, and batteries) to create the framework modules. This process includes an algorithm to calculate flight time using data collected from a thrust stand. It is also presented the design of a software tool that streamlines the selection of hardware components and flight time calculation.

Following, this dissertation presents the technical specifications of the MR-UAVs implemented with the framework. To evaluate the proposed design, two usability studies were conducted. Results from these studies suggest that modular MR-UAVs can provide direct benefits to military operations in terms of usability, as well as to the military organizations in terms of logistics and cost, and are likely to be adopted. Lastly, future work considerations for modular MR-UAVs for military applications are discussed.

Included in

Engineering Commons