Access Type

Open Access Embargo

Date of Award

January 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name



Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

First Advisor

Yanchao Liu


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), especially multi-rotor drones, have been increasingly used in various scenarios in the last decade. With the reduced hardware costs, improved battery life, and enhanced processor performance, we can eventually allow all kinds of drones to automatically travel through the low-altitude airspace. The large-scale application of drones will extend the basic transportation facilities from the ground to the air and form 3D transportation networks for the future. Compared to current ground-vehicle and aircraft traffic systems, multi-UAV systems are far from well-developed. Most current multi-UAV systems are human-operated or pre-programmed to perform specific tasks. The current application of multi-UAV systems indicates a large demand to fill the knowledge gap in this field of study, and there are many possibilities and directions to research on drones.

This dissertation addresses three critical challenges in realizing fully autonomous UAV fleet operations - preflight hardware anomaly detection, safety assured fleet routing in dense air traffic, and rapid landing under infrastructure limitations. Mathematical optimization techniques, including mixed integer programming, nonlinear least squares models, and advanced computing algorithms, compose the backbone of the methodological contributions. For preflight diagnosis, we develop a weight measuring landing platform with statistical inference algorithms that can estimate the center of gravity and the orientation of the aircraft. We derive an analytical solution for each nonlinear least squares model and prove the uniqueness of the solution. For fleet routing, we introduce an optimization-based strategic deconfliction procedure that can plan the trajectories for a large number of automated UAVs with 4D operational intents (OI). We build an integer programming model on 4D hex grid airspace for trajectory planning, minimizing the total OIs reservation in the area and the total travel distance for all UAVs. For rapid landing, we characterize an optimization problem that efficiently guides a fleet of drones to a limited number of vertiports in congested airspace. We propose a mixed integer programming model to describe the constraints for operation and safety separation, and solve the model with computational improvement algorithms. Finally, we design and build a cloud-based UAV fleet management system that works in the real world. The system implements a centralized mission control approach by leveraging IoT infrastructure, real-time databases, and mathematical optimization techniques. And an order delivery application is integrated into the UAV fleet management system for method validation and field tests.

Available for download on Thursday, December 14, 2023