Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Engineering (ME)




C.T. Hess

Second Committee Member

Sam Hess

Third Committee Member

David Rubenstein


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) expand the available mission-space for a wide range of budgets. Using MATLAB, this project has developed a six degree of freedom (6DOF) simulation of UAV flight, an Extended Kalman Filter (EKF), and an algorithm for localizing radioactive sources using low-cost hardware. The EKF uses simulated low-cost instruments in an effort to estimate the UAV state throughout simulated flight.

The 6DOF simulates aerodynamics, physics, and controls throughout the flight and provides outputs for each time step. Additionally, the 6DOF simulation offers the ability to control UAV flight via preset waypoints or in realtime via keyboard input.

Using low-cost instruments, the EKF fuses measurements with a nonlinear UAV model to estimate UAV states. The 6DOF simulation was used to compare the true UAV states with the estimated states. EKF results indicate appropriate estimation of states with the exception of UAV yaw. An additional sensor providing yaw information would improve estimation accuracy.

Radioactive sensors which are capable of providing position information are prohibitively expensive. The radioactive source localization algorithm utilizes count-based sensors such as a Geiger counter to estimate the location of a radioactive source. The algorithm constructs a three dimensional gradient using six measurements and attempts to determine the source position from this gradient. The algorithm was developed such that a wide range of environmental parameters could be localized by swapping the Geiger counter with an alternative count-based instrument.