Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics

First Advisor

Mark H. Yim


Micro air vehicle (MAV) technology has broken with simple mimicry of manned aircraft in order to fulfill emerging roles which demand low-cost reliability in the hands of novice users, safe operation in confined spaces, contact and manipulation of the environment, or merging vertical flight and forward flight capabilities. These specialized needs have motivated a surge of new specialized aircraft, but the majority of these design variations remain constrained by the same fundamental technologies underpinning their thrust and control. This dissertation solves the problem of simultaneously governing MAV thrust, roll, and pitch using only a single rotor and single motor. Such an actuator enables new cheap, robust, and light weight aircraft by eliminating the need for the complex ancillary controls of a conventional helicopter swashplate or the distributed propeller array of a quadrotor.

An analytic model explains how cyclic blade pitch variations in a special passively articulated rotor may be obtained by modulating the main drive motor torque in phase with the rotor rotation. Experiments with rotors from 10 cm to 100 cm in diameter confirm the predicted blade lag, pitch, and flap motions. We show the operating principle scales similarly as traditional helicopter rotor technologies, but is subject to additional new dynamics and technology considerations. Using this new rotor, experimental aircraft from 29 g to 870 g demonstrate conventional flight capabilities without requiring more than two motors for actuation. In addition, we emulate the unusual capabilities of a fully actuated MAV over six degrees of freedom using only the thrust vectoring qualities of two teetering rotors. Such independent control over forces and moments has been previously obtained by holonomic or omnidirection multirotors with at least six motors, but we now demonstrate similar abilities using only two. Expressive control from a single actuator enables new categories of MAV, illustrated by experiments with a single actuator aircraft with spatial control and a vertical takeoff and landing airplane whose flight authority is derived entirely from two rotors.

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