REU: Unmanned Systems Foundations and Applications

Autonomous Unmanned Systems

For information contact

Dr. Brittany Duncan

Assistant Professor Computer Science and Engineering

Members of the NIMBUS Lab posing in the Flying Cage where we test and evolve our systems.
Members of the NIMBUS Lab posing in the Flying Cage where we test and evolve our systems.

Who should apply

Related fields

  • Computer Science
  • Computer Engineering
  • Software Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Psychology


Participation in the Nebraska Summer Research Program is limited to students who meet the following criteria:
  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Current undergraduate with at least one semester of coursework remaining before obtaining a bachelor's degree

See Eligibility for more information.

How to apply

Follow the application steps to submit the following materials.

About the Program

The REU site will provide undergraduates with a comprehensive research experience in the context of unmanned systems, a rapidly growing field of scientific and technological research. REU students will participate in carefully prepared research projects on unmanned systems with topics including attitude control of nanosatellites, behavior studies of robots in complex environments around humans, characterizing and developing vehicles for atmospheric profiling, and asset management during wildfires with unmanned aerial vehicles. Research activities across the projects will be structured to provide a systematic research experience for the cohort, while enabling flexibility for each participant to focus on a particular area. The projects will be hosted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Nebraska Intelligent MoBile Unmanned Systems Lab (UNL NIMBUS), which has graduated over 30 undergraduate, master's, and doctoral students in the last five years, and is a leader in aerial unmanned systems and their application to the environment.

One of the 2018 scholars works with Dr. Detweiler.
One of the 2018 scholars works with Dr. Detweiler.


  • Competitive stipend: $5,000
  • Suite-style room and meal plan
  • Travel expenses to and from Lincoln
  • Campus parking and/or bus pass
  • Full access to the Campus Recreation Center and campus library system
  • Wireless internet access

Learn more about academic and financial benefits.


  • Department seminars and presentations
  • Professional development workshops (e.g., applying to graduate school, taking the GRE)
  • Welcome picnic
  • Day trip to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo
  • Outdoor adventures
  • Research symposium

Mentors and Projects

Dr. Justin Bradley Computer Science and Engineering

Cyber-Physical Attitude Control to Improve CubeSats Performance

Low Earth Orbit is a challenging environment in which increasing numbers of nanosatellites with commercial off the shelf components operate. Challenges such as communication, data collection, energy collection, and attitude control must come together with precise timing, usually utilizing inexpensive and imprecise COTS hardware, to accomplish mission objectives – a perfect Cyber-Physical System challenge. Current attitude control strategies, while robust, have fixed execution rates, consuming resources even during more quiescent portions of the orbital period. We are applying and extending state-of-the-art Variable Rate Sampling control strategies to attitude control for CubeSats that will more effectively allocate resources dynamically in response to environmental, physical, and cyber performance. These strategies have demonstrated that the CubeSat can accomplish more science objectives by carefully allocating resources holistically.

Dr. Carrick Detweiler Computer Science and Engineering

Development and Characterization of Atmospheric Profiling UAVs

Understanding the lower thousand meters of the atmosphere is critical to better predict severe weather development and small UAVs have significant potential to aid in these measurements. Current weather monitoring relies on radars, weather balloons, and airplanes that primarily measure the atmosphere 1000 meters above ground level and ground based weather stations that measure the atmosphere between ground level and ten to fifty meters. The NIMBUS Lab is part of the NSF EPSCoR Track II 1539070 project Cloud-Map, which aims to develop UAVs that can be used as scientific instruments for atmospheric scientists. This project involves 17 faculty and more than 60 students in Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. At UNL, one of our goals is to determine if off the shelf sensors (temperature, humidity, etc) can be used on UAVs and how to best to aspirate these sensors and insulate them from solar radiation. Preliminary results show that there are significant differences in sensor readings based on these configurations. 

Dr. Brittany Duncan Computer Science and Engineering

Interactions with Telepresence Systems in Complex Environments with and without Explicit Purpose

Much of the current research related to unmanned systems approaches to humans in human-robot interactions occurs in simulated environments or with otherwise unnatural testing conditions that may make the results difficult to generalize. A significant portion of this research occurs in public spaces such as malls, but does not consider the impact of robot approach on the quality of the interaction. This line of research proposes to understand human attitudes toward unmanned system-initiated assistance in a public space in order to assist designers with decisions on how to build systems that are helpful and to aid public space administrators with decisions on how and when to deploy unmanned systems that will be beneficial to patrons.  This project will assess the inclusion of a visible purpose (such as distribution of items) on interactions with various unmanned systems to determine whether it impacts acceptance and distancing.