Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science

First Advisor

Kimon P. Valavanis, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mattew J. Rutherford, Ph.D.


Area coverage, Autonomous helicopter, Endurance, System integration, Unmanned system


Class I (kg) autonomous helicopters are becoming increasingly popular for a wide range of non-military applications such as, surveillance, reconnaissance, traffic monitoring, emergency response, agricultural spraying, and many other "eye in the sky" missions. However, an efficient landing/takeoff platform with refueling/recharging capabilities has not yet been developed to increase the endurance and decrease the cost for Class I helicopters.

This dissertation presents a three-prong approach for increasing the range and endurance of Class I autonomous helicopters, which will then spur demand by non-military organizations wanting to take advantage of such capabilities and, therefore, drop their price. The proposed Intelligent Self-Leveling and Nodal Docking System (ISLANDS) is developed as a mobile refueling/recharging station, which is one part of a three-pronged approach. ISLANDS is an electro-mechanical system that provides a safe landing surface for helicopters on gradients of up to 60%. ISLANDS operates "off the grid" and, therefore, must provide its own energy sources for the refueling/recharging tasks it performs. A method for determining ISLANDS' energy needs for refueling/recharging of gas and/or electric helicopters for an arbitrary number of days is provided as the second part of the three-pronged approach. The final step for increasing autonomous helicopter endurance is a method for determining placement of ISLANDS nodes in the area to be serviced ensuring that the helicopters can achieve their mission goal.

In this dissertation all aspects of the three-pronged approach are presented and explained in detail, providing experimental results that validate the proposed methods to solve each of the three problems. A case study using Commercially Off The Shelf (COTS) components that shows how all the parts of the proposed three-pronged solution work together for increasing the endurance of Class I helicopters is provided as a conclusion to the dissertation.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Roy Godzdanker


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

144 p.


Robotics, Aerospace engineering, Mechanical engineering