Drones now have a home at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) to test and research their capabilities. Engineers (aerospace, electrical, mechanical, and structural), scientists, and computer scientists can come together at this 2500 square ft. outdoor aerodome managed by the Contextual Robotics Institute to test new drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles, and try out a variety of different capabilities. With a 30 ft. tall mesh cage and a large number of motion capture cameras, tests on equipment ranging from hurricane-monitoring balloons to drone swarms to damage assessment and endurance can be easily conducted.

Indeed, this facility has already been used to develop drone-based imaging capable of mapping buildings before, during, and after disasters such as earthquakes or fires. This allowed the researchers to create a 3-D hologram to scale that they could walk through and safely look for damage. The team who did this research now use it in real-world situations, helping people after disasters and in historical preservation. The ability to use the aerodome has already saved lives.

As new drones, new algorithms, and new uses are developed, the aerodome at UCSD is going to prove to accelerate these developments and broaden the ways we use drones and other aerial vehicles—and to train more engineers in developing these kinds of technologies. Thanks to funding from Northrop Grumman and Qualcomm, we now have this aerodome to improve the technology and even to improve and save lives.


Bolkan, Joshua. “UC San Diego Opens Outdoor Drone Test Facility” Campus Technology. 1/26/18 online