Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Computer Engineering and Sciences

First Advisor

Siddhartha Bhattacharyya

Second Advisor

Marshall Jones

Third Advisor

Khaled Slhoub

Fourth Advisor

Phillip J. Bernhard


Autonomous systems have, over the years become part of our everyday lives. These systems have been deployed to executed a diverse range of applications in different industries; finance, healthcare, military, and in particular, the flight industry. With the rise of UAVs, new opportunities arose, but with those opportunities came new pitfalls within any industry. For UAVs, one of the pitfalls came in the form of ethical decisionmaking, which led to a variety of questions. Can the Autonomous systems within UAVs be designed with ethics in mind? Which ethical guidelines would we use to implement such a system? How would we test such a system? This research aims to prove that autonomous systems can be ethical while providing the foundational framework for future research. In this research effort an ethical autonomous system was designed, developed and implemented. A use case using an emergency landing scenario was created to test the ethical autonomous system; this scenario forced the autonomous system to select an ethical choice in a scenario with multiple options with different ethical implications. The framework included, the Matlab Fuzzy toolset to model the ruleset of the system by following the principles of utilitarianism, as the ethical guidelines. The results of the Fuzzy logic was integrated with an aircraft simulation environment Xplane, to validate the correct implementation of the ethical decision by the autonomous system. So, the contribution to this field of research was made by implementing this ethical decision-making component that was experimented upon within a simulation environment. Additionally, in this research, the ethical system was design with human machine interface and interpretability in mind, as a result, the autonomous system was designed to provide graphical representation to the user of the reason the final decision was made. With these contributions, the research illustrates how to implement ethical autonomous systems, thus continuing to grow this ever-evolving field of autonomous systems.

Available for download on Saturday, June 17, 2023