Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Aaron Drake

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


With the continued rise in wildfires in California, and around the world, technological advancements are needed to improve the safety and effectiveness of wildland firefighters. One area that provides an opportunity for such development is the deployment of temporary communications networks. Currently, radio repeaters are set up on mountain tops in the response area; such repeaters do not provide flexibility once installed, still have blind spots, and require the time of valuable assets like helicopters to install.

This thesis will establish the feasibility of airborne radio repeaters for wildland firefighting. In order to successfully demonstrate the feasibility of such an airborne system, the resulting system should be rapidly deployable, improve communications range and reliability, and be compatible with existing regulations and guidelines. The design process for the repeater payload is described, as well as important troubleshooting steps. The resulting product is then compared to the initial requirements through testing and observation.

Although audio filtering provided by off-the-shelf handheld radios prevented the repeater from functioning as intended, the proposed 2m/70cm dual-band digital communications relay was capable of being carried by the Altavian Nova and was able to successfully demonstrate the feasibility of such a system. As such it will be an important contribution to communications needed for fighting future wildfires.