A Novel Tilt-Rotor VTOL UAV Development

Aquatic environments globally face human-caused threats including pollution, invasive species, over-harvesting, diversion, drainage, and climate change. A scientific initiative lead by the Queen’s University (QU) Biology Department is proposed to develop an environmental DNA (eDNA)  platform for high-quality and real-time data collection and analytics to monitor aquatic biodiversity and environmental ecosystem, with the goal of developing future freshwater resources management strategies.

 A research collaboration project is established between the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies – Flight Systems and Control Laboratory and the Queen’s University, as well as other institutions and communities. The engineering objective is to provide a specialized enabling UAV technology to support scientific eDNA platform development.   An innovative tilt-rotor aquatic unmanned aerial vehicle (aquaFly) is under design and development. The proposed configuration can land and take off from water surfaces and has a mechanism for automatic water sampling. 

The focus of our research will be:

  • long flight endurance and range performance to cover a large scope of water bodies;
  • autonomous operation to reach inaccessible water bodies;
  • safe vertical takeoff and landing on water surfaces;
  • smooth transition control; and
  • automatic sampling mechanism


  • Wayne Hsu (MASc)
  • Yih Tang Yeo (MASc)
  • Peter Yao (ESC)
  • Igor Monteiro (MEng)
  • Qingyang Liang (MEng)

Related Publications:


Hsu*, MoWei; Liu, Hugh H -T

Design of a Nonlinear Hierarchical Adaptive Controller for a Tilt-Rotor VTOL AquaUAV Inproceedings

In: AIAA SciTech Forum, pp. 1–10 (submitted), 2021.



Yeo, Yih Tang; Liu, Hugh H T

Transition Control of a Tilt-Rotor VTOL UAV Inproceedings

In: AIAA SciTech Forum, 2018.

Links | BibTeX


Yeo, Yih Tang; Liu, Hugh H T

VTOL Design for Water Inspection Inproceedings

In: Unmanned Systems Canada, 2017.