This paper introduces a new quasi-steady in-ground effect model for rotorcraft unmanned aerial vehicles to predict the aerodynamic behavior when the vehicle’s rotors approach ground plane. The model assumes that the compression of the outflow due to the presence of ground plane induces a change in the induced velocity that can drastically affect the thrust and power output. The new empirical model describes the change in thrust as a function of the distance to an obstacle for a rotor in hover condition. Using blade element theory and the method of image, the model parameters are described in terms of the rotor pitch angle and solidity. Experiments with off-the-shelf, fixed-pitch propellers and 3D-printed variable pitch propellers are carried out to validate the model. Experimental results suggest good agreement with 9.5% root-mean-square error (RMSE) and 97% p-value of statistic significance.

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