Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Nikolaos Vitzilaios


The objective of this project is to design, develop and experimentally test an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS, commonly known as a drone) for the deployment of sensor packages to the underside of structures. This work begins with an in-depth review of existing automation techniques for various drone applications focusing on applications requiring interaction with the environment. Further reviewed is the impact of structures above the UAS during flight on the behavior of the aircraft.

Considering these topics, the development of a custom drone is presented to address the difficulties of delivering a package to the underside of a structure. Starting with manual flights, the drone is piloted by a human operator to serve as proof of concept of the drone’s ability to navigate under the ceiling effect and make contact with the underside of the structure. During the manual flight experiments the drone tasks increased in difficulty beginning with docking the drone without a package to the underside of a structure, delivering a package to the underside of a structure, and finally retrieving that package.

Finally, the development of a vision-based navigation system is presented to autonomously perform the same tasks. The system is validated through a series of autonomous flight experiments using the OptiTrack motion capture system and ArUco fiducial markers for onboard localization. The autonomous tasks successfully completed and presented in this work support the proposed use of drones for deploying sensor packages to the underside of structures, even in GPS denied environments.