Building an Air Frame Dynamics Model in MATLAB

Michael Thorburn, California State University-Los Angeles, College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology

Author Profile


This set of LiveScripts is designed to help students develop a MATLAB model of the physics of flight for a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It is intended to be self-paced.

Learning Goals

Students will learn how to assemble a 6 degree of freedom flight model and solve it. The MATLAB skills involved include the development of a state-space model and solving the resulting system of ordinary differential equations.

Context for Use

The lesson was prepared for college seniors in engineering as they prepare for their Capstone Senior Design experience. It should take 4-16 hours to step through, depending on experience. The intent is to help students, who already have some capabilities in MATLAB, extend those capabilities to model UAVs as they prepare to do similar tasks on projects related to autonomous vehicles.

Description and Teaching Materials

Through several steps, the student will develop a MATLAB model of the flight dynamics of a UAV. There are several separate files plus a utils folder. (Zip Archive 1.2MB Sep22 21)


Teaching Notes and Tips

This was intended to be self-paced, but can be used in laboratory or class. Be sure the working directory contains the files needed. There are several separate files plus a utils folder.


Honestly, we are working on this now. The idea is to see the models the students put together - but we are keenly interested in seeing if they fully learn the underlying principles.

References and Resources

I am in process of creating companion videos but that is a work in progress.