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Research Proposal

Anna Selbrede
Intern/Mentor I
Part I: Project
Research Title: I Can Fly! ...Or at Least My Drone Can

Overview of Research:
As an intern in Mechanical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
(JHUAPL), the researcher is investigating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), more specifically
the design and development of quadcopters.

Background and History of the Issue:

Unmanned aerial vehicles are a fairly recent development in engineering as a result of
sophisticated coding that simplifies user control. The availability of these vehicles is expanding,
with a 167% growth in the global drone consumer market between 2014 and 2015, and that
number increasing even more now (The Consumer 1). One of the most common UAVs is the
quadcopter, named for the four propellers that provide thrust to move the vehicle. Quadcopters
are becoming even more common for military and recreational flight due to their simplicity and

Problem Statement and Rationale:

As quadcopter use increases, military models are growing more specialized to meet specific
tasks, and recreational models are growing simpler for easier control. However, there is less
production of a basic adaptable model. Because there is now a higher demand for quadcopters, a
basic model can provide the foundation of a frame and the other components of a the UAV, but
also include the option for additional parts to be added for customization. In an ever expanding
field, this model will be useful to skip the basic design process and move on to specialization.

Research Methodology:

Research Question and Hypothesis:

What is the most efficient basic design for a quadcopter that can be customized in
different ways?
A basic X frame design with 10 inch propellers will effectively support many efficient
quadcopter models.

Basis of Hypothesis:
Most quadcopters already use an X frame for its stability, symmetry, and center of mass.
10 inch propellers lie in the middle of possible effective propeller lengths for light to
medium weight with medium flight duration based on APL testing. Other design
components will be added with further research.

Research Design:
Research will likely be conducted qualitatively through experimentation.

Operational Definitions:
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) - a device that flies through the air without a human
directly touching it. Instead, the user sees through either the UAV's First Person View
(FPV) camera, or controls the UAV via a ground system. UAVs can be fixed wing, such
as an airplane, or rotary wing, such as a helicopter or quadcopter (Preface). Sometimes
UAVs are called drones as well, but that definition generally connotes the larger armed
UAVs used in the military.
A quadcopter is a flying vehicle which uses...four equally spaced...rapidly spinning
rotors [propellers] to push air downwards, thus creating a thrust force keeping the [craft]
aloft. (Gibiansky 1).

Product Overview:
The final product will be the CAD design of a basic quadcopter. All research will be compiled on
a website to document the completed work. The audience for the project will be high school
students learning the basics of engineering, and also hobbyists looking to customize their own

Logistical Considerations:
As a junior in high school, the researcher will be busy this year and will not have the opportunity
to go onsite as often as preferable. Because CAD software can only be accessed on site, there
will be less time to work with designing as a whole.

Part II: Timeline

March: Quadcopter Designing in Solidworks
Complete rough quadcopter design 60%
Rough project rubric 10%
Electronic portfolio draft 30%
Frame/mechanical subassemblies elevated 80%
Evidence of work on visual display 20%
Evidence of work on elevating electronics - but does not need to be finished 100%
End of quarter work (its own grade)
Rest of quadcopter elevated so final design complete with possible reevaluation
pending 60%
Display board complete 40%
April: Elevating Design
May & June: Presentation of Research

Student Signature: _____________________________________ Date: _____________

G/T Resource Teacher Signature: _________________________ Date: _____________
Mentor Signature: _____________________________________ Date: _____________