Development of the UIUC aero testbed: A large-scale unmanned electric aerobatic aircraft for aerodynamics research

Or D. Dantsker, Miles J. Johnson, Michael S Selig, Timothy Wolfe Bretl

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper describes the development of a large 35%-scale unmanned aerobatic platform named the UIUC Aero Testbed, which is primarily intended to perform aerodynamics research in the full flight regime. The giant-scale aircraft with a 105-in (2.7-m) wingspan and weight of 37 lb (17 kg) was constructed from a commercially available radio control model aircraft with extensive modifications and upgrades including a 12-kW electric motor system that provides a thrust-to-weight ratio in excess of 2-to-1. It is equipped with an avionics suite that contains a high-frequency, high-resolution six degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) inertial measurement unit (IMU) that allows the system to collect aircraft state data. This information set can be used to generate high-fidelity aerodynamic data that can be used to validate high angle-of-attack flight-dynamic models. Collaboration in this project also led the Aero Testbed to have the capability to fly fully- and semi-autonomously in order to conduct autonomous flight research. A literature review of aerobatic unmanned aircraft used for research is first presented. Then the background and motivations for developing this platform are discussed. This is followed by a description of the planning and development that was involved. Finally, initial test flight results are presented, which include flight path trajectory plots of several aerobatic maneuvers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Sep 16 2013
Event31st AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Jun 24 2013Jun 27 2013


Other31st AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

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