Unmanned Systems Lab


Unmanned Systems Lab


Department of Mechanical Engineering
119 Randolph Hall (0710)
460 Old Turner Street
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Kevin Kochersberger

Associate Professor

Welcome to the Mechanical Engineering Unmanned Systems Lab at Virginia Tech. Our lab offers the ideal environment for air and ground vehicle research and testing. Several graduate students and senior design teams can be found at our lab. We have extensive experience in operating unmanned helicopters, and welcome new opportunities. If you are interested in working with a dynamic group of faculty and students equally capable in algorithm development, hardware design and fabrication, and flight test, then you have come to the right place.


Thesis defense by Pooja Harekoppa
July 21, 2016 — Pooja Harekoppa successfully defended her Masters thesis: “Application of Computer Vision Techniques for Railroad Inspection using UAVs”.

Thesis defense by Danny Whitehurst
July 12, 2016 — Danny Whitehurst successfully defended his Masters thesis: “Techniques for Processing Airborne Imagery for Multimodal Crop Health Monitoring and Early Bug Detection”.



The lab is equipped with its own machine shop. Some of the tools include:

  • a 4-axis CNC mill
  • a welding station (both steel and aluminium)
  • two bandsaws
  • a drill press
  • various tools for sheet metal work
  • grinding and polishing stations

…and assorted other tools to aid in the manufacturing of everything from initial prototypes to field deployable finished products.

The lab also houses an electronics lab equipped with the necessary tools for assembling and testing the custom electronics developed for many of the on-site projects. Some of the equipment includes:

  • various hand soldering tools
  • a hot-plate soldering station for surface-mount components
  • a hot-air system for removal of soldered parts
  • microscopes for inspection of electronics
  • programmers for various microcontrollers
  • oscilloscopes
  • digital multi-meters
  • function generators

…and various other tools. Many electronic components are designed in house. The PCBs are sent out for manufacturing and then populated in the elab using the variety of surface-mount and through-hole components available at the lab.

The lab offers a Computer Aided Design (CAD) workstation that is available to graduate students and senior design teams. Here are some quick stats:

  • OS: Windows 7 Enterprise Edition (64bit)
  • Hardware: Intel Core2Quad CPU, ATI Radeon GPU, 4Gb RAM, 500Gb HDD (plus access to terabtye server), 3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator, Dual display
  • Software: NX 7(Unigraphics), SolidWorks 2007, Autodesk Inventor 2010, Microsoft Paint

For demonstrations, the lab truck is available to haul equipment to flight test locations. The truck is capable of safely transporting the lab aircraft, in addition to its role as a ground control station.


Projects & Aircraft

  • Triggering and detecting lightning strikes
  • Remote monitoring project
  • Image analysis of cropland for enhanced production
  • Methodologies for Autonomous Radiological Search
  • Sensor fusion and state estimation for small unmanned aircraft
  • Development of a variable autonomy sUAS
  • Site addition to the Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems
  • Yamaha RMAX

    • rmaxQuantity 2
    • 94 kg max takeoff weight
    • 28 kg payload
    • 60 minute endurance
    • wePilot autopilot equipped
    • Current Uses
      • – Sensing Payloads
      • – Imaging
      • – Ground Robot operations

  • Aeroscout B1-100

    • aeroscoutQuantity 1
    • 100 kg class
    • 20 kg payload
    • 90 minute endurance
    • wePilot autopilot equipped
    • Current Uses
      • – Sensing Payloads
      • – Imaging

  • ASI Mongoose

    • asimongoose1Quantity 1
    • 16 kg max takeoff weight
    • 8 kg payload
    • 20 minute endurance (standard tank)
    • 45 minute endurance (extended tank)
    • Piccolo LT autopilot equipped
    • Current Uses
      • – Imaging

  • Rotomotion SR-20

    • rotomotion1Quantity 1
    • 10 kg max takeoff weight
    • 4 kg payload
    • 15 minute endurance
    • Rotomotion autopilot
    • Current Uses
      • – Imaging

  • Bergen Industrial Twin

    • bergenQuantity 3
    • 15 kg max takeoff weight
    • 8 kg payload
    • 30 minute endurance
    • Rotomotion autopilot
    • Current Uses
      • – CO2 Sensing
      • – Terrain following research

  • Sig Rascal

    • sigrascalQuantity 3
    • 15 kg max takeoff weight
    • 4 kg payload
    • 30 minute endurance
    • Current Uses
      • -Infrastructure Inspection
      • -Undergraduate Search and Rescue Competition

  • GenMAV Street Flyer

    • genmavQuantity 1
    • 0.6 kg max takeoff weight
    • 20 minute endurance
    • Fully morphing flight control (no articulated control surfaces)
      • -Undergraduate Search and Rescue Competition

  • QuikWingUAV



      Quantity 1

    • 6 kg max takeoff weight
    • 1 kg payload
    • 30 minute endurance
    • Design dictated by the Bureau of Land Management for an aircraft capable of monitoring endangered species habitats




Laboratory address and students offices:
Goodwin Hall , Virginia Tech
635 Prices Fork Rd, Room 232
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

Department of Mechanical Engineering
College of Engineering, Virginia Tech
635 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24061