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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractUnmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are rapidly becoming an integral part of everyday life. Whether for military surveillance, personal entertainment, or commercial transportation, each UAV is limited in flight time by the amount of fuel it can carry or the power its batteries can hold. This project sought to break that boundary by allowing a gliding UAV to autonomously make use of the natural energy of thermals: rising pockets of air that form over warm patches of ground. Birds and manned gliders have already been making use of this energy for years by a process called thermalling, in which they are able to gain altitude by circling around the center of a thermal and rising with the surrounding air. By altering the autopilot code of a typical UAV glider, this project was able to achieve autonomous thermalling in both simulated and actual flight tests, and achieved more than triple the plane's natural gliding flight time.
Degree ProgramHonors College