Lacy, Thomas E. Jr.

Committee Member

Olsen, Gregory

Committee Member

Newman, James C., Jr.

Committee Member

Prabhu, Raj

Committee Member

Liu, Yucheng

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) pose a potential threat to general aviation/commercial aircraft as UASs are increasingly incorporated into the National Airspace System. This overarching research is aimed at addressing the severity of a UAS mid-air collision with another aircraft. This study is primarily focused on the development of a finite element (FE) model of a ~4 lb fixed-wing UAS (FW-UAS) which will be used to evaluate the severity of small UAS mid-air collisions to manned aircraft. A series of impact tests were performed at the University of Dayton Research Institute - Impact Physics Lab, to study the impact behavior of the high-density components of the FW-UAS (i.e., motor, and battery). For each of the tests, a simulation was set up with the same initial conditions, and boundary conditions as the physical test and the same output parameters were correlated with the test results. A series of numerical stability checks were also performed using the validated FW-UAS FE model to ensure the stability of the explicit dynamic procedures. Simulated impacts between the FW-UAS FE model and targets (deformable flat plate, rigid flat plate, and rigid knife-edge) were performed as stability checks. The FW-UAS FE model developed in this work facilitated the evaluation of the severity of FW-UAS mid-air collision to commercial and business jet airframes performed at and in conjunction with National Institute for Aviation Research. A series of worst-case scenarios involving impacts between the FW-UAS and commercial narrow-body transport and business jet airframes were simulated. For each simulated impact, an impact severity index value was assigned to characterize the relative threat to a given aircraft. In addition, a UAS frangibility study was performed to assess key UAS design features that result in reduced damage to target air vehicles. A “pusher” engine configuration was modeled where the high-density motor is located aft of the UAS’s forward fuselage. Positioning the high-density motor in the aft fuselage played an important role in reducing the impact damage severity.