Design and Development of a High-Payload UAV

Jonathan Bessette, Benjamin Freedman and Maxwell Kolarich

Ad-hoc thrust testing setup.

Ad-hoc thrust testing setup.

Undergraduate Student Project


UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), also known as "drones," have had increased research interest in the past few years. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google are using them for various applications, but current UAVs are mainly constrained to information gathering and inspection.

High-payload UAVs have great potential for delivery applications, search and rescue applications, emergency service response, transportation, and even aerial robotics. You can imagine a UAV being able to perform physical tasks - from fixing a power line, to speeding across a town to deliver emergency care.

Our project is the construction of UB's first high-payload UAV (and the first among many other universities), with the aim of lifting 40 kg. This will put UB at the forefront of UAV/drone research.


Research in drone technology is historically limited to small scale aircraft limiting them to information gathering applications.  Heavy lift UAVs have high research potential for performing physical tasks in high risk situations: natural disaster search and rescue scenarios, emergency service responders, and even rapid delivery; construction of these are often unexplored due to the heavy weight of the aircraft.  Recently, the University at Buffalo was granted an award from the Department of Defense to construct a 3.6 million cubic foot outdoor UAV testing facility on North Campus - this opportunity could allow UB to be at the forefront of large-scale drone research.  The objective of this project is to research and develop a novel UAV tool with 40kg lift capability with a cost constraint of $6,000.

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