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Autonomous Systems Research

Research Initiatives

Advancing Autonomy: Researching technologies and developing solutions that advance the capabilities of UxS and address unique government needs related to the widespread adoption and deployment of autonomous uncrewed vehicles.

Edge Computing: Developing custom hardware and software to leverage advanced edge-computing SoMs and conduct research in class-leading machine learning, artificial intelligence, and edge data processing for a variety of applications.

Novel Communications: Researching novel approaches such as multimodal network architectures and Artificial Intelligence to develop the next-generation communication solutions and address challenges with operating uncrewed autonomous vehicles in operationally relevant & austere environments.

Nuclear Security: Leveraging ORNL’s expertise in nuclear science to enhance the security of nuclear materials by researching innovative tools, technologies, and tactics to improve security, enhance response efforts, and support global nuclear non-proliferation.

Operations and Test & Evaluation: Researching innovative methods for operating next-generation autonomous vehicles, providing technical research support for data collection activities, and providing subject matter expertise to partner agencies regarding hardware, workflows, and operational deployments.

Key Capabilities

Drone operator tests an underwater drone in a large drum

Custom Ground/Air Vehicle Development

Our team of engineers design and build custom uncrewed and remotely operated vehicles for a variety of government and national security applications.
A Strelka Artemis drone sits on the floor of a wooded area

Next-Generation Networked Communication Technologies

Engineers and software developers at ORNL have unique experience with developing next-generation multi-modal communication systems enabling truly global command and control of uncrewed systems in a size, weight, and power constrained environment.
Pilots sit in their mobile command center

Test and Evaluation

ORNL has the most diverse fleet and one of the largest and most experienced teams of operators within the US Department of Energy which provide test and evaluation support for many different aircraft and payloads.
Researcher points at map on screen

Remote Sensing, Mapping, and Geospatial Science

Leveraging ORNL’s expertise in geospatial science, our team of scientists conduct remote sensing and geospatial research utilizing a variety of custom and commercial sensors to answer questions in support of the national security mission.
Two pilots train on a LIDAR payload


Our staff consist of multiple FAA and manufacturer certified instructors with specialized experience in operating in operationally relevant and austere environments.


Photo of Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan, Group Leader for Autonomous Systems