Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

Marcello R. Napolitano

Committee Co-Chair

Haiyang Chao

Committee Member

Yu Gu


Wind turbulence including atmospheric turbulence and wake turbulence have been widely investigated; however, only recently it become possible to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as a validation tool for research in this area. Wind can be a major contributing factor of adverse weather for aircraft. More importantly, it is an even greater risk towards UAVs because of their small size and weight. Being able to estimate wind fields and gusts can potentially provide substantial benefits for both unmanned and manned aviation. Possible applications include gust suppression for improving handling qualities, a better warning system for high wind encounters, and enhanced control for small UAVs during flight. On the other hand, the existence of wind can be advantageous since it can lead to fuel savings and longer duration flights through dynamic soaring or thermal soaring.;Wakes are an effect of the lift distribution across an aircraft's wing or tail. Wakes can cause substantial disturbances when multiple aircraft are moving through the same airspace. In fact, the perils from an aircraft flying through the wake of another aircraft is a leading cause of the delay between takeoff times at airports. Similar to wind, though, wakes can be useful for energy harvesting and increasing an aircraft's endurance when flying in formation which can be a great advantage to UAVs because they are often limited in flight time due to small payload capacity.;Formation flight can most often be seen in manned aircraft but can be adopted for use with unmanned systems. Autonomous flight is needed for flying in the "sweet spot" of the generated wakes for energy harvesting as well as for thermal soaring during long duration flights. For the research presented here formation flight was implemented for the study of wake sensing and gust alleviation.;The major contributions of this research are in the areas of a novel technique to estimate wind using an Unscented Kalman filter and experimental wake sensing data using UAVs in formation flight. This has been achieved and well documented before in manned aircraft but very little work has been done on UAV wake sensing especially during flight testing. This document describes the development and flight testing of small unmanned aerial system (UAS) for wind and wake sensing purpose including a Ground Control Station (GCS) and UAVs.;This research can be stated in four major components. Firstly, formation flight was obtained by integrating a formation flight controller on the WVU Phastball Research UAV aircraft platform from the Flight Control Systems Laboratory (FCSL) at West Virginia University (WVU). Second, a new approach to wind estimation using an Unscented Kalman filter (UKF) is discussed along with results from flight data. Third, wake modeling within a simulator and wake sensing during formation flight is shown. Finally, experimental results are used to discuss the "sweet spot" for energy harvesting in formation flight, a novel approach to cooperative wind estimation, and gust suppression control for a follower aircraft in formation flight.