Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Eric Mehiel


The control of multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a swarm or cooperative team scenario has been a topic of great interest for well over a decade, growing steadily with the advancements in UAV technologies. In the academic community, a majority of the studies conducted rely on simulation to test developed control strategies, with only a few institutions known to have nurtured the infrastructure required to propel multiple UAV control studies beyond simulation and into experimental testing. With the Cal Poly UAV FLOC Project, such an infrastructure was created, paving the way for future experimentation with multiple UAV control systems. The control system architecture presented was built on concepts developed in previous work by Cal Poly faculty and graduate students. An outer-loop formation flight controller based on a virtual waypoint implementation of potential function guidance was developed for use on an embedded microcontroller. A commercially-available autopilot system, designed for fully autonomous waypoint navigation utilizing low cost hardware and open source software, was modified to include the formation flight controller and an inter-UAV communication network. A hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulation was set up for multiple UAV testing and was utilized to verify the functionality of the modified autopilot system. HIL simulation results demonstrated leader-follower formation convergence to 15 meters as well as formation flight with three UAVs. Several sets of flight tests were conducted, demonstrating a successful leader-follower formation, but with relative distance convergence only reaching a steady state value of approximately 35 +/- 5 meters away from the leader.