Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Industrial Engineering

Degree Program

Industrial Engineering, PhD

Committee Chair

Gentili, Moni

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Mirchandami, Pitu

Committee Member

Mirchandami, Pitu

Committee Member

Bai, Lihui

Committee Member

Depuy, Gail

Committee Member

Lauf, Adrian

Author's Keywords

Operations research; logistics; optimization; drone; humanitarian logistics


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, are a promising technology for the last-mile delivery of medical and aid items in humanitarian logistics. In emergency scenarios, like disasters, where transportation networks are destroyed and people are stranded, drones can accelerate the delivery of urgently needed items, e.g., food and water, insulin shots and blood pressure pills, to those trapped in the disaster-affected areas. Drones can also provide logistics services in many non-emergency situations by delivering medical items, e.g., vaccine shots and lab specimens, to remote communities and hard-to-access locations. The contribution of using UAVs goes beyond merely having access to remote and disaster-affected areas. With inexpensive launching infrastructures and no need for on-board pilots, drones can offer an inexpensive, agile, and ready-to-use alternative to traditional last-mile delivery modes. Motivated by the challenges associated with the last-mile delivery of aid items to hard-to-access areas, this dissertation studies the problem of drone-based delivery of aid items, e.g., medical and relief packages, to hard-to-access areas in humanitarian logistics. The main goal of this dissertation is to design the logistics and orchestrate a fleet of drones to provide the timely delivery of items to hard-to-access areas in emergency and non-emergency scenarios. In this dissertation, we develop multiple extensions of a drone location and scheduling problem while taking into account the critical aspects of drone- based delivery systems in humanitarian logistics. These critical aspects include: i) limited coverage range, ii) limited payload capacity, iii) energy consumption, iv) timeliness, and v) uncertainty. Chapter II presents a general case of the drone location and scheduling (DLS) problem for the delivery of aid items in disaster-affected areas. In this chapter, we first develop a time-slot formulation to address the problem of optimally locating drone take- off platforms and concurrently scheduling and sequencing a set of trips for each drone to minimize total disutility for product delivery. We extend a two-period problem of DLS where the platforms can be relocated using useable road networks after the first period in order to provide a higher level of coverage. Chapter III proposes a multi-stop drone location and scheduling (MDLS) problem for the delivery of medical items in rural and suburban areas. In this chapter, we assume drones are allowed to stop at one or multiple charging stations, installed on existing platforms having access to electricity, e.g., streetlights, during each trip in order to improve the drones’ coverage range while considering the drones’ energy consumption. The problem is to find optimum locations for medical item providers and charging stations as well as optimally scheduling and sequencing drone trips over a long-term horizon. Chapter IV presents a stochastic extension for the drone location and scheduling (SDLS) problem. Due to the lack of information and instability of the situation, we assume the set of demand locations is not known. The main problem is to locate a set of drone take-off platforms so that with a given probability, the maximum total disutility (or cost) under all realizations of the demand locations is minimized. Finally, Chapter V presents a simulation-based performance evaluation model for the drone-based delivery of aid items to disaster-affected areas in humanitarian logistics. Our goal is to develop a simulation-based system to perform analytical/numerical studies, evaluate the performance of a drone delivery system in humanitarian logistics, and support the decision-making process in such a context while considering multiple sources of variabilities.