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Published by: Simone Electra Wilson on Apr 26, 2012
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Low-Cost Autonomous CivilianUnmanned Aerial Systems
by
Christian Stewart
March 30, 2012
Biology 9 Period 4Ms. PiHarvard-Westlake SchoolLos Angeles, CA
 
Abstract
Unmanned aircraft, commonly called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), when combinedwith ground control stations and data links, form Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs). UASspose a wide variety of applications for civilian use, including imaging large areas for survey. Iresearched current UASs in use, and found no affordable solutions suitable for civilian droneapplications. The objective of the project was to design and develop a low-cost AutonomousUnmanned Aerial System (AUAS) capable of meeting the needs of civilian applications. Thesystem was designed specifically for photographing interest areas for survey via a small fixedwing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.A list of requirements for the UAS was made. A design was created to conform to theserequirements, and the components were acquired with some elements donated by their sup-pliers for development. The system was built to follow the design, and user-friendly MissionControl software was developed to allow real-time control and monitoring of the UAV (Un-manned Aerial Vehicle). An experiment to verify the system’s capability to execute thesample application, Aerial Imaging for Survey, was devised. Interest areas were selectedby an operator with the Mission Control software, and the drone was deployed under fullautonomous control. Data measuring every aspect of the plane’s flight, most importantlylocational, airspeed, and altitude was electronically recorded. This test procedure was re-peated with five differing interest areas. Test flights were executed at the Apollo XI modelaircraft field in Los Angeles on Febuary 13, 18, and 19.The data from each test was analysed by calculating the area imaged relative to the UAV,and then comparing this area to the original interest area for the flight. This informationwas used to calculate the percent interest area imaged for each test. If a percent area imagedwas greater than 100%, it was rounded down to 100%. The average percent area imaged wascalculated to be 100%. The total cost of the system if deployed commercially (
$
594.36) wascompared to the published cost of a comparable drone (Ocatron’s SkySeer) in commercialuse (
$
25,000) and was found to cost
$
24,405 less than current solutions.The results of the experiment were analysed. It was concluded that the final design wascapable of meeting the needs of a common civilian application, and was extremely low-costin comparison with other systems currently in use.
 
I Introduction
According to an article published by the Washington Times, February 7th 2012, the FederalAviation Agency projects that 30,000 unmanned drones will be in the United States skiesby 2020. [12] Unmanned aircraft, commonly called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs),when combined with ground control stations and data links, form Unmanned Aerial Systems(UASs). UASs pose a wide variety of applications for civilian use;[16] they can take the placeof manned vehicles in a variety of situations from scientific atmosphere studies to imagingterrain for survey. [13, 8, 7, 11, 10]The majority of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) in use today were developed for largescale military and government applications. National spending on UASs has increased from
$
284 million in 2000 to
$
3.3 billion in 2010.[13, 14] These drones are extremely expensive,difficult to build and maintain, and are not a viable solution for civilian use.A report published by NASA[13] explores the capability and applications of civil UASs,and documents potential future civil missions for UASs based on user-defined needs. Ap-plications explored by the report range from land management to Earth science. One of the highest priority needs for civil UASs mentioned in the report was autonomous missionmanagement, as well as quick deployment and high availability. Today, current UASs cannotoffer the required elements of civil applications, as they are very expensive, ranging from
$
25,000[9] to
$
30,300,000[4], and a majority of these drones do not offer autonomous control.The goal of this project was to design and develop a low-cost Autonomous UnmannedAerial System (AUAS) capable of meeting the needs of civilian applications.1

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