New lab aims for the sky and sea

The Kentland Experimental Aerial Systems Laboratory provides 2,000 square feet of space for students and faculty members to conduct unmanned systems research.

In August, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech celebrated the opening of a new, shared laboratory at Kentland Farm that will be key to developing advanced technology for unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles.

The Kentland Experimental Aerial Systems Laboratory will also be used to educate and train the next generation of agricultural scientists and engineers to conduct research using remote-controlled planes and submarines.

David Schmale, associate professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, leads a team that has developed technologies with small, unmanned aerial vehicles to sample microbes far above the Earth. Some of these microbes have the potential to cause devastating plant diseases.

“An increased understanding of plant pathogens in the atmosphere is essential for mitigating potentially damaging events targeted at our nation’s agriculture and food supply,” Schmale said.