Unmanned Aerial Systems Research Center

With further advancement and integration of its technology subsystems, unmanned aerial systems offer promising solutions to a variety of complex issues of national importance by enabling safe, cost-effective, efficient execution of tasks that are high-risk or impossible using traditional methods.

To convert UAS potential into reality, Oak Ridge National Laboratory connects industry with world-class research tools and capabilities through its Unmanned Aerial Systems Research Center. The center is industry’s gateway to ORNL core capabilities in systems engineering and integration, which are essential to translating breakthrough science into commercialized applications. 



The ability to fly over land that is not easily accessible allows the UAS to can carry out and repeat detailed real-time agricultural and environmental inspections. Whether it’s tracking insect infestations or seasonal yield, the UAS assists in crop and environmental management by allowing farmers and resource officials to observe, measure, and react to variables.


UASs provide an airborne safety and trouble-shooting solution for the energy industry with their ability to affordably capture new views of landscapes containing oil fields and coal mines to gauge land conditions and monitor potential as energy resources. Through unmanned surveillance, they allow greater and safer accessibility to transmission lines, solar and wind generation units, offshore platforms, oil derricks, and pipelines to evaluate for leaks, erosion, or significant damaging conditions.


From daily traffic to harsh environmental elements, bridges endure much wear and tear over a lifetime. Without cranes or scaffolding, the UAS can safely and efficiently inspect bridges and other hard-to-reach infrastructure such as cell towers and dams. A deployed system can assess structure conditions remotely and identify issues such as surface damage, corrosion or breaches.


The UAS plays a vital role in critical missions related to natural and manmade disasters. It enables first-responders to fulfill human needs at the most personal level by reaching and analyzing affected areas and individuals more easily and more efficiently than other means can. UASs can be positioned to survey damage, locate stranded and injured victims, and facilitate emergency management strategies.


Able to carry out missions without risking human life, the UAS supports greater day-to-day security. Security forces can deploy the UAS to provide tactical surveillance and tracking to protect the US homeland, key installations, and borders. These capabilities can be critical in near–real-time security situations such as accident and incidence response.

An unmanned aerial system under study at ORNL.