Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Computer Science


Computer Science


College of Engineering


Franz J. Kurfess

Advisor Department

Computer Science

Advisor College

College of Engineering


With unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, becoming readily available and affordable, applications for these devices have grown immensely. One type of application is the use of drones to fly over large areas and detect desired entities. For example, a swarm of drones could detect marine creatures near the surface of the ocean and provide users the location and type of animal found. However, even with the reduction in cost of drone technology, such applications result costly due to the use of custom hardware with built-in advanced capabilities. Therefore, the focus of this thesis is to compile an easily customizable, low-cost drone design with the necessary hardware for autonomous behavior, swarm coordination, and on-board object detection capabilities. Additionally, this thesis outlines the necessary network architecture to handle the interconnection and bandwidth requirements of the drone swarm.

The drone on-board system uses a PixHawk 4 flight controller to handle flight mechanics, a Raspberry Pi 4 as a companion computer for general-purpose computing power, and a NVIDIA Jetson Nano Developer Kit to perform object detection in real-time. The implemented network follows the 802.11s standard for multi-hop communications with the HWMP routing protocol. This topology allows drones to forward packets through the network, significantly extending the flight range of the swarm. Our experiments show that the selected hardware and implemented network can provide direct point-to-point communications at a range of up to 1000 feet, with extended range possible through message forwarding. The network also provides sufficient bandwidth for bandwidth intensive data such as live video streams. With an expected flight time of about 17 minutes, the proposed design offers a low-cost drone swarm solution for mid-range aerial surveillance applications.