Electronic Systems Lab

Selected Programs


Assured access to the radio-frequency (RF) spectrum underlies a vast number of military operations and emerging commercial capabilities. The Electronic Systems Lab (ESL) focuses on delivering that assured access, whether embodied as spectrum dominance for the warfighter or resilient communications and sensing capabilities to improve the reliability of commercial protocols used in industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and automotive cybersecurity. Core thrusts of the ESL research portfolio are summarized below.

The Spectrum Dominance thrust creates new mechanisms to improve the security and robustness of our warfighters' communications, which providing them actionable intelligence and reaction capabilities for other spectrum actors.

  • Development of spread-spectrum and other secure physical-layer waveforms on software-defined radios
  • Incorporate intelligence into adaptive protocols, waveforms, and multi-function RF protocols
  • Deployment full suite signals intelligence and electronic warfare capabilities
  • Innovation for advanced position, navigation, and timing (PNT) alternatives

The RF Machine Learning (RFML) thrust transforms a decade of research into image- and natural language processing-based machine learning techniques into tools that make decisions from raw RF data.

  • Performing automated techniques for RFML-based modulation recognition
  • Using RFML algorithms to identify specific emitters
  • Harnessing RFML to attack signal detection problems that are too hard or too time consuming for human operators
  • Creating new RFML techniques to quantify bounds on training processes and spectral meta-parameters

The Embedded Security thrust focuses on exploitation and mitigation of cyber threats to embedded and wireless devices/systems.

  • Securing automotive platforms and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) from wireless and related attack vectors
  • Securing commercial aviation systems seeking to improve communications and security for aircraft and to the global air traffic control (ATC) and operations infrastructures

The STEM Education thrust represents an active partnership with our sponsors to further the hands-on workforce development and experiential learning of undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students. ESL engages over 100 students every semester in hands-on research experiences. For example, the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP@VT) supports civilian defense workforce development via long-term experiential learning projects.

The Quantum Information thrust leverages the university's relationships with key partners in the quantum market to explore the capabilities and limitations of both quantum annealing and quantum gate computers.



Michaels, Alan
Director and Research Professor
Headley, William (Chris)
Associate Director

Department Personnel

Brown, Greg
Lab Manager
Clark, Deanna
Project Manager
Clark, William (Bill)
Research Associate
Davis, Bradley
Research Assistant Professor
Gaeddert, Joseph
Research Associate Professor
Krauss, Thomas
Research Associate
McCollum, James (Joey)
Research Associate
Paulz, Eric
Computer Engineer
Poetter, Alexandra
Senior Program Manager
Ridge, Devin
Research Associate
Trease, Harold
Adjunct Research Scientist
Wong, Lauren
Research Associate

Total: 14 personnel