Journal of Intelligent & Robotic Systems

, Volume 85, Issue 1, pp 145–165 | Cite as

Emergency Flight Planning for an Energy-Constrained Multicopter

  • Alec J. Ten Harmsel
  • Isaac J. Olson
  • Ella M. Atkins
Open Access


Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) have diverse commercial applications. Risk mitigation techniques must be developed to minimize the probability of harm to persons and property in the vicinity of the aircraft. This paper presents an emergency flight planner combining sensor-based and map-based elements to collectively plan a landing path for a UAS that experiences an unexpected low energy condition while flying over a populated area. Focus is placed in this work on the use of public databases of population distribution, structure locations, and terrain to create an efficient-to-access cost map of the data. Safe landing plans are generated with an A* search algorithm shown to be feasible for real-time use with the cost map. Simulation-based case studies are presented of a quadrotor UAS operating within New York City to illustrate how different cost terms impact optimal path characteristics.


Path planning Cost modeling Risk mitigation 


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© The Author(s) 2016

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alec J. Ten Harmsel
    • 1
  • Isaac J. Olson
    • 1
  • Ella M. Atkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Aerospace EngineeringUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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