Flight Performance Optimization for Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Using Path Planning Methods
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The presented research topics were selectively chosen in an effort to fill specific knowledge gaps within the unmanned aircraft industry. The researcher conducted his work at the company Maritime Robotics, which is a international operator of small unmanned aerial systems. The overall goal of the work was to provide methods for an increased operational envelope of fixed-wing small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), in an attempt to advance the possible applications. In particular by providing the industry with beyond-state-of-the-art methods for optimizing the in-flight performance through intelligent path planning. Recent advancements in unmanned aerial technology have made professional operations accessible to a wider audience, with a variety of mission types. The methods have been applied to several typical unmanned operations, including maximizing the range in A-to-B flights and cooperative Search and Rescue (SAR) missions. This thesis proposes and demonstrates through simulations methods for integrating relevant aircraft performance models into the path planning algorithms while considering information on en-route meteorological information, such as horizontal winds and potential icing conditions. Similarly, opportunities are demonstrated for increasing the operational safety of small unmanned aircraft through path planning optimization by utilizing redundant propulsion systems. Finally, methods for the performance optimization of cooperative UAS is presented. The paper concludes by providing suggestions for airframe design optimization. The most important contribution to existing path planning models is the level of integration of fixed-wing aircraft performance models, in conjunction with relevant environmental parameters, such as en-route wind and icing conditions.