Recent Aero Graduate Presents UAV Research at AHS International

By: Ashley Duvelius

Wei Wei, recent CEAS aerospace engineering PhD graduate, presented his research at the AHS International's 71st Annual Forum and Technology Display. You might recognize his research—it’s the very same that’s being used in Horsefly, the UC-Workhorse Group Inc. autonomous delivery drone.

Wei Wei, PhD (left) with Mark Tischler, PhD, at the conference.

Wei Wei, PhD (left) with Mark Tischler, PhD, at the conference.

Recent UC College of Engineering and Applied Science aerospace engineering graduate, Wei Wei, PhD, presented his work at the AHS (American Helicopter Society) International's 71st Annual Forum and Technology Display on May 7, 2015. The three-day forum, held in Virginia Beach, VA, is the world’s leading international technical event on vertical flight technology. Wei’s work on “System Identification and Controller Optimization of a Quadrotor UAV,” which was co-authored with the US Army’s CIFER/CONDUIT software developer, Mark Tischler, PhD,  was featured at the conference.

Wei’s PhD work focused on the system identification and control development of a quadrotor (having four propellers) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Under the guidance of his advisor, Kelly Cohen, PhD and professor in the CEAS Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, and Dr. Tischler, Wei developed a dynamic model essential for autopilot design for a wide variety of unmanned aircraft having multiple rotors. He used Dr. Tischler’s computer program CIFER® to develop the dynamic models of multi-rotor systems. For this research in particular, he applied his method to quadrotor UAVs (UAVs with four propellers).

Wei’s research provides an efficient and effective method for multi-rotor system modeling and control development. It has a more accurate, less expensive model and control performance.

"A selling point for this configuration is its efficiency, in both time and money, and the accuracy," Wei says. "We're already proving it using flight-test data, and it has matched nearly perfectly. This would enable not only quadrotors, but any multi-rotors to operate on autopilot effectively."

HorseFly, a newly designed, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle, was developed to work in tandem with Workhorse electric delivery trucks, creating a safe, fast and never-before-seen method of delivering goods. (Elliot Bokeno)

HorseFly, a newly designed, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle, was developed to work in tandem with Workhorse electric delivery trucks, creating a safe, fast and never-before-seen method of delivering goods. (Elliot Bokeno)

During his time as a CEAS PhD student, Wei led a team of his fellow aerospace engineering students—Bryan Brown, Jeff Bennett, Nicholas Schwartz, Vince DeChellis and Nathaniel Richards—to apply his research and develop an autonomous UAV for the locally-based company, Workhorse Group Inc. (formerly known as AMP Electric Vehicles). The UAV, named Horsefly, works in tandem with Workhorse electric delivery trucks to create a fast and safe method for delivering packaged goods.

The partnership between UC and Workhorse Group Inc. was secured through UCRI, an independent nonprofit institution working to connect UC experts to industry partners, facilitate commercialization of research and enhance experiential learning for UC students.

There is currently a patent filed for the Workhorse Horsefly delivery drone. Wei has been working at Workhorse for the last few months and plans to transfer back to UC as an adjunct instructor in the very near future.

About the AHS International’s 71st Annual Forum & Technology Display

The three-day meeting included more than 230 technical papers, totaling 250+ presentations, detailing the latest theories and breakthroughs in vertical flight technology. Leaders in industry, academia and government discussed their perspectives on the future of vertical flight technology. Also included in the forum were panels of the CEOs of major helicopter manufacturers and suppliers, US Army and US Navy/Marine Corps aviation program managers, and other vertical flight science and technology leaders.

Guests of the conference had the opportunity to see the latest technologies from leading manufacturers, service providers, defense agencies, universities and research & development organizations as well as interact and share ideas with more than 1,200 of the world’s top vertical flight professionals.

For more information about the collaboration between the University of Cincinnati and Workhorse Group Inc., please visit: