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Autonomous Systems

Autonomous Systems
Conducting a preliminary data collection test, ECE students and researchers sent an aerial drone into a mine in Kimballton, Virginia.

Imagine what could be accomplished by coordinated teams of autonomous robots in the air, on the ground, and underwater. ECE researchers are bringing this vision to life by developing efficient coordination algorithms and robust systems to explore autonomous collaboration and communication between heterogeneous robotic systems.

They are building prototypes to map and monitor hazardous or inaccessible environments, aid search and rescue operations, enable interconnected infrastructure, and potentially transform environmental monitoring and management strategies.

Associated Faculty

Ming Jin

Ryan K. Williams

Daniel J. Stilwell


Highlighted Research

On large, remote cattle farms, ground and aerial robots can make all the difference for “precision grazing,” which increases livestock productivity by controlling cattle’s grazing patterns, noxious weeds, and plant diversity. We are developing multi-scale cyberphysical system-planning algorithms for autonomous monitoring and intervention, designing prototype systems, and building models to evaluate long-term grazing optimization.

We have more detailed maps of the Moon, Mars, and even Venus than we do of our own oceans. ECE researchers are developing and implementing new approaches to multi-vehicle coordination for applications that include subsea search and mapping, and collaborative autonomy for teams that include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and human-operated host platforms.

Each year, thousands of people go missing in the United States. Challenging terrain and other constraints can slow human searches, but teams of robots can rapidly disperse and provide situational awareness for first responders. ECE researchers are investigating joint perception and planning in dynamic situations. They also are determining how to select and assign search tasks to complement human searchers in real-time.