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Multicopters are important tools in industry, the military, and research but suffer from short flight times and mission durations. In this thesis, we discuss three different ways to increase flight times and therefore increase the viability of using multicopters in a variety of missions. Alternate fuel sources such as hydrogen fuel and solar cells are starting to be used on multicopters, in our research we simulate modern fuel cells and show how well they currently work as the power source for multicopters and how close they are to becoming useful in Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) technology. Increasing the efficiency in which the available energy is used can also increase mission duration. Two characteristics that affect the efficiency of a mission are the flight speeds of the multicopter and the payload it carries. These characteristics are well known in larger rotorcrafts but often ignored in smaller multicopters. In our research, we explore the effect of flight speed on the dynamics of a multicopter and show that higher speeds lead to higher flight times due to the effect of translational lift. Lastly, we developed an online updating multi-flight planning algorithm for stop and charge missions, a method that can potentially indefinitely extend a mission. The multi-flight planning algorithm, the variable resolution horizon, reduces the computing resources necessary to 15% to 40% of a typical optimal planner while having a maximum 5.6% decrease in expected future reward, a metric for accuracy. The results of this thesis help guide decisions in fuel type for multicopter missions show examples of how to increase flight time through increasing efficiency and develop the framework for multi-flight missions.
Advisers: Justin Bradley and Carrick Detweiler