Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics


Mechanical, Industrial and Systems Engineering

First Advisor

Bahram Nassersharif


Most of the unmanned flight systems that exist today are comprised of either horizontal or vertical capabilities, with very few capable of full Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) operations. Aircraft with VTOL flight systems have the ability to take off and land vertically, then transition to horizontal flight, allowing an aircraft to cover long distances at high speed while maintaining the highly advantageous ability to take off and land without the use of a runway. These systems, however, are either highly complex and costly, or power inefficient during horizontal flight, highly reducing their practicality to commercial or private applications. With small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) becoming increasingly popular in private, commercial and military markets, simplified, small scale VTOL systems will provide UAS pilots with increased capabilities and significant advantages compared to standard fixed wing or rotor aircraft. A flight system designed for this application will be able to achieve VTOL capabilities and retain the high velocity and long range of conventional fixed wing aircraft while maintaining a comparatively low complexity and cost. To recognize these goals, a design has been established with a “dis-similar” tri-rotor design. This dis-similar thruster design will use powerful vertical lift motors in pods mounted in the wings capable of rotating forward for transition to horizontal flight, with a significantly smaller rear motor, in a similar pod, to provide low power, high efficiency thrust during horizontal flight operations. Several iterations of this design were constructed and tested with progressively more success with each design. The system was not able to achieve a successful transition to horizontal flight; however, vertical flight capabilities were proven and significant data was collected to aid the design of future iterations.