Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The study of unmanned aerial vehicles encompasses most areas of electrical engineering, software engineering and core computer science.

The Monash UAV Group (Aerobotics) was formed in 1999, and as part of this, the Lawrence Hargrave Collection was also established. Currently the Group is a loose federation of those interested in flight. Most members are FAI accredited model aircraft pilots. This gives a degree of practicality to our research which traditional university research can often lack. Failure to get it exactly right in this research area is invariably expensive and can be dangerous.

I am interested in the civil applications of electrically powered UAVs. The research is focussed on safety and ease of use. I make no apologies for it also being fun.

Regulations and Flight Safety

The relevant regulations for UAV operations are CASR-101. The conditions under which we conduct flights are set out in the references below. The Monash UAV Group is insured for fully autonomous flight including flights outside visual range.

It is my expectation that most model aircraft will, within a year or two, come equipped with integrated autopilots, including GPS navigation (return to origin), and spread spectrum communications if only to ensure safe use of recreational aircraft by unskilled pilots - "litigation mitigation" if you will. These features will serve to contain aircraft to designated safe flying spaces and return them to the vicinity of the pilot should they for any reason stray out of radio range.


Most research groups simply purchase ready made aircraft to support their research. We were anxious to distance ourself from being percieved to be just flying model aircraft by adopting airframes that were themselves a little unusual. This came in part from the urgings of Professor John Bird one of the group founders.

The aircraft we use for trials were a team effort between myself and Ray Cooper. Ray has brought practicality and a sound empirical knowledge and construction experience, gained over 30 years of flying. I have been responsible for the choice of airfoils and the configuration of the aircraft with suprisingly good success. I have certainly learnt much about construction and low Reynolds Number flight.

The aircraft, P15035, P16025 and Duigan are described on the Monash UAV Group site.

Avionics and Autopilots


I have developed a large number of components and associated software to support UAV research. The compact nature of UAVs and the large number of RF emitting devices on board the aircraft make the EMC challenges interesting! All of the software and much of the hardware was developed in my own time.


We use the Micropilot autopilot as our reference autopilot. It is very widely used by university based UAV researchers. The autopilot provides very comprehensive logs which we use in our research into model identification and automatic tuning.

VMC Autopilot

The autopilots developed under this research are described in the papers that follow. Attitude control is by the use of IR sensors rather than the more normal inertial platforms. There are two VMC autopilots under development within the Group. One by myself and one by Brian Taylor. Brian and I work very closely on these developments largely as a form of sanity check on safety and other issues.

Model Identification and Tuning

For UAVs to be economical, particularly in civil applications, they must be easy to operate. This research is directed at flight control systems which autonomously identify an aircrafts dynamics and tune its control systems appropriately to accommodate changes in payload and possible sensor failure.

Mission Planning and Extension

This work conducted by undergraduate students is directed at extending the flight of aircraft by the use of environmental lift (thermals and ridge/wave lift) and solar energy sources for inflight battery recharging.

Vision Based Attitude Sensing

This work was led by my research student and fellow Group Member Terry Cornall as part of his PhD studies. Terry was key member of the CTIE research staff for many years with a strong background in video processing. He left Monash in 2006 but remains a member of the Group.

Research | G.K. Egan