Upcoming: Aviation Data Science Seminar Series

As unmanned aerial systems pepper the skies and big data collection and machine learning transform aircraft, airspace and airport operations, aviation is primed for a revolution. Learn from experts in government, industry and academia in this seminar series hosted by NASA and Berkeley and sponsored by USRA and NASA Academic Mission services.

Course Website Explore Unmanned Lab

What We Do


Winged Hybrid Airship for Long Endurance

Even as drones surge in the marketplace, they have a bad rep with many people compared to, say automated cars. Cal's Unmanned Aviation Lab seeks a next unmanned aircraft that is friendly and fun to interact rather than be spider-like. Our Winged Hybrid Airship for Long Endurance (WHALE) is such a solution for the rapid urban delivery problem. The design mimics a lovable natural shape while being the outcome of careful aerospace engineering. WHALE is affable in form rather than droid-like, clean air and quiet unlike a flying lawnmower, VTOL, and with scalable endurance. The industry needs Wozniak's electronics in Steve Job's beige box.
WHALE's design is currently proven by XFLO and Simulink analysis, and a first flying prototype has been built. It can deliver 5 lbs with an endurance of 85 miles, while landing in a suburban home is currently viable. We have several innovations such as a wing design allowing for variable lift, minimizing lift and drag in the return phase. This first milestone was achieved with a design budget of $100K, contributed in part by NSF. We seek to execute the next build commercially. A 5X to 10X growth in the design budget will create a 3X to 5X growth in performance and overcome the structural weakness of the current build. For more information, contact Justin Lee at leejustin@berkeley.edu.

Vehicle Design

We focus on designing consumer drones for enhanced interaction

UAS Airway Design

Today's airspace has airways and researchers, including ourselves, have begun to explore the same for unmanned aviation [1],[2]. Our focus is on designing airways for UAS traffic emanating from large distribution centers like those operated by UPS or Amazon. The figures above show airways for traffic flowing from the main UPS distribution center in the Bay Area to future UAS hubs in its principal cities. The airways are designed to avoid areas of high population density based on population distribution data. We have also geocoded the interstate highways and modeled them as areas of low density. Hence, the airways and highways are coincident in some parts of the Bay Area. In other parts, the airways sensibly flow over the bay or large unpopulated public lands.

UAS Airways

We work on flight planning problems for low altitude airspace

Drone License Plate

Once flights paths have been accepted and airspace permissions have been set, enforcement becomes the next concern. According to Waley (Automobile License Plate for Illinois - 1937), a car license plate is well designed when they have legibility in daylight from at least 125 ft. Similarly, we are creating a drone identification system for low altitude flight, in a way any person can look at the drone for few seconds and detect it at least by 400 ft. The objective is to create a system of traceable identity for UASs. The way we found to make a visible code is using visible LED color sequences for each UAS. This identification technology is integrated with ADS-B, displaying a unique code both through RF and through visible LEDs. With this technology, NASA will have the traceability of the UASs registered to the UTM while they fly, also NASA can easily detect drones that doesn't have the identification system, like a car driving without license plate. Besides the way used to transmit the identification code (LED or RF), we are studying also the size of the code, how many combinations will be available in order to scale up with the growth of the UAS in the airspace. For more information visit www.lightcense.co

UAS Identification System

We develop technologies for regulation of consumer drones

Air Parcel Management System

According to FAA regulations (under the 333 exemptions- ) and laws under discussion drone pilots require the consent of the owner in order to fly over private property. As drone policy proceeds in this direction, regulation of future flights necessitates some form of continued communication between pilots and property owners. To tackle this, we are approaching the problem of regulating low airspace navigation from the land ownership model. A property owner (like an Individual, City or County) may provide full, partial or no restriction for a UAS flying in the air parcel above. The current build of NASA’s UTM system checks new flight paths against existing reserved paths and geofences. If accepted, a polygonal prism of airspace is reserved along the entire flight path for the duration of the flight. Our system breaks up the complexity of checking the large number of flight paths against static (air parcels/geofences) and dynamic (other flights) obstacles into two parallely running platforms. A flight operator inputs the path and it is verified based on the existing air parcel permissions in our air parcel system and if it checks through, it is forwarded to the UTM to be checked against existing flight paths thus ensuring that most of the paths submitted to UTM are acceptable. Secondly, we would be able to retrieve active flight track data from the UTM via WFS requests and update them in real time. Thus even property owners can track which flights are expected to cross their air parcels. There are several research problems in understanding the complexities in this large scale implementation of such a system. Efficient data structures and algorithms are needed in order to check constraints before flight, and in real-time if the flight paths change. At a higher level, this system can be conceptualized as distributing the control of a large scale airspace between consumers and FAA rather than a single centralized source.
Currently the system allows property owners to change permissions for the air parcel above their properties. To explore further visit unmanned.berkeley.edu/airspace

UAS Traffic Management

We are sourcing consumer sentiment towards UAS operations

NASA UTM Convention 2015

The NASA Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Traffic Management Convention or UTM 2015 was held from July 28-30 at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. NASA and the Silicon Valley Chapter of AUVSI co-hosted the convention in anticipation of the widespread increase in unmanned aircraft. The three day event attracted a broad international and U.S. audience of government and civilian representatives including leaders from industry and academia. We showcased our research and contributed to discussions geared towards understanding and defining the UAS impact and challenges ahead. The panel speakers, including our lab lead Professor Sengupta, discussed low altitude traffic management with reference to: Policy issues, Emerging markets and operations, Strategies for management and International perspectives. Our current research incorporates the valuable inputs received at the convention.

Technology Outreach

Reaching out to industry experts

International Drone Expo

The International Drone Expo is organized annualy by the UAVSA and The Tesla Foundation. The event brings together innovative and talented members of the commercial drone community from around the world. It provides a forum of sorts that allows all attendees, professionals, governments, companies and institutions to interact with each other and the community. At the past two Expos (2014 and 2015), we exhibited the technologies being developed in the lab to the public. We educated the attendees and received valuable feedback from them which we have incorporated in our research.

Public Outreach

Exhibting research and technology to the public

Meet the Team

We are a team of multi discplinary researchers with skills including hardware development, software development and behavioral modelling.

Leadership and Strategic Advisors

Dr. Raja Sengupta

Lab Director
UC, Berkeley

Dr. Mark Hansen

UC, Berkeley

Dr. Vishwanath Bulusu

Aerospace Res. Scientist

Frank Ketcham

Commercial Aviation Specialist

Christian Manasseh

Mobius Logic

Drew Van Duren

Systems Engineer


Xin Peng

PhD Student

Samuel Fernandes

Program Manager

Pavan Yedavalli

PhD Candidate
Urban Computing, DCRP

Dr. Zhilong Liu

PhD Systems

Fadi Kfoury

MS Systems

Patrick Lerchi


Justin Lee


Jeffrey Kurohara


Miguel Soto


Rachel Zhang


Dr. Aislan Foina

Post Doc.

Dalmir Hasic

Visiting Scholar
CS 2016
University of Salzburg





Research Sponsors

Associated Labs


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Keep in Touch

Give us a call or drop us a line.




Davis Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720