Optimal persistent surveillance using coordinated soaring

Dmitriy Makovkin, Jack W. Langelaan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

6 Scopus citations


Coordinated soaring by a flock of small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAVs) provides a means of conserving fuel while performing aerial tasks. The ability to exploit thermal columns in the atmospheric boundary layer allows sUAVs to remain airborne without expending any onboard sources of energy, i.e., soaring flight. This paper presents an analysis of the cruising phase during coordinated soaring where a fock of sUAVs relies on thermal exploitation to maximize endurance for monitoring-type missions. To this end, a maneuver is investigated that involves each sUAV repeating a round-trip between a thermal and a monitoring/surveillance target so as to maintain continuous monitoring of the target. The focus is on minimizing the number of agents required to maintain continuous, persistent surveillance of the target for given atmospheric conditions (thermal strength and distance between the thermal and monitoring target) and on maximizing a free parameter (time or distance) when the number of agents is specified. It will be shown that the optimal cruising speed for maximizing the endurance of monitoring-type missions varies between the best L=D speed and the MacCready speed and depends on the "aggregate thermal strength" of a given cycle, or equivalently, the ratio of the time that one sUAV spends away from the target to the time that it spends at the target. An examination of multiple-thermal exploitation is then presented, followed by an evaluation of the flight simulations used to support the results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference
StatePublished - 2014
EventAIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference 2014 - SciTech Forum and Exposition 2014 - National Harbor, MD, United States
Duration: Jan 13 2014Jan 17 2014

Publication series

NameAIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference


OtherAIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference 2014 - SciTech Forum and Exposition 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNational Harbor, MD

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering


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