Date of Award


Degree Type

Capstone Project

First Advisor

Bahram Nassersharif


This report outlines the concept generation, design, testing, and implementation process of a drone-based automated inspection system. This project was completed for submission in the ACRP Design Competition and for the University of Rhode Island Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design Course. Throughout the course of the year the team was sponsored by their Professor and faculty advisor, Dr. Nassersharif, and worked closely with their airport sponsor, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.

Capstone Design Team 11 was chosen to participate in the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) National Design Competition. The aim is to plan, design and create innovative approaches to resolve problems experienced by airports and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The team was able to choose between four main categories in which to compete. The category chosen for the competition is the “Airport Management and Planning” category and the “planning for the integration and mitigation of possible impacts of drones into the airport environment” subcategory. The team addressed this subcategory with a solution that automates the daily inspections for runway and taxiway lighting as well as airport perimeter and security of a General Aviation (GA) airport using a drone.

The final design was created and validated using Westerly State Airport to complete calculations and perform flight tests. The design is scalable and transferable with the ability to adapt to other GA and private airports, and potentially larger airports. The team demonstrated the adaptability and versatility of the design by also testing the system at Newport State Airport.

The design requirements include automating aspects of the daily airfield inspection process and significantly reducing the required man hours to complete the respective inspection tasks. Typical perimeter and security inspections and lighting inspections take approximately one hour to complete. The automated inspection process demonstrated in this project completes each inspection in under 20 minutes. The system uses a video recording feature attached to the drone so that inspections can be logged and archived as well as used as evidence in the event of an incident such as a crash. The design allows for ease of use with a low learning curve to implement and operate the system for different airports.

The costs for implementing the system are $4,017. After implementation, airports will save $23,233.5 the first year of operation and $27,250.5 each year thereafter.


Sponsor: Rhode Island Airport Corporation