Computers and Control

The Computer and Control Systems division conducts its research activities primarily within the Electronic Systems Laboratory (ESL). The ESL is the birthplace of SUNSAT, South Africa’s first satellite. It has been home to the research and development activities of various NRF Innovation Fund and dti THRIP projects. Research in this division focuses mainly on the dynamics and control of autonomous platforms e.g. low earth orbiting satellites, manned and unmanned fixed and rotary wing aircraft, underwater vehicles, etc.

Aeronautical Systems

Current aeronautical systems research focuses on control, automation and system identification for a wide variety of aircraft, including manned and unmanned fixed wing, rotary wing (helicopter) and dirigible vehicles. Successful flight demonstrations of advanced research activities include automated take-off, landing and aerobatic flight of various aircraft. A strong test flight, certification and regulation research drive is also supported. Test aircraft include various UAVs and a manned aircraft based at a local airfield. This research drive is supported by local and international government and industry, including Airbus, Armscor and the NAC (an initiative of the dti).
Contact Dr JAA Engelbrecht for more information on this research activity.

Autonomous Navigation

Research activities include path planning in dynamic environments, Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM) and collision detection and avoidance. This research is applied to and tested on terrestrial and underwater vehicles and to commercial and unmanned aircraft.

Contact Dr CE van Daalen for more information on this research activity.

Contact Dr JAA Engelbrecht for more information on this research activity.

Computer Systems

Research includes a focus on real-time computing for control and communication systems, dynamic reconfigurable data flow and FPGA-based computing architectures. Digital electronic components are also analysed and tested for radiation effects in order to determine the suitability of such components for space system applications. Software, hardware and memory architectures may be designed to help mitigate the effects of prolonged exposure to radiation.

Contact Dr A Barnard for more information on this research activity.

General Control Systems

Research is undertaken on the development of advanced system simulators, non-linear system design (such as solid state laser controllers) as well as control of both airborne and space vehicles, actuation, estimation and automation techniques. Know-how and research are also fostered in the field of system identification. Other research topics include distributed control of loosely coupled systems, servo systems and chemical process control. Facilities include a large commercial position and rate-table, and a kinematic air-table.

Contact Prof. WH Steyn for more information on this research activity.

Satellite Systems

The Satellite Systems group focuses primarily on providing research support to the local South African satellite industry. The group recently participated in the attitude-control development, experimental payloads and ground station support for SumbandilaSat, South Africa’s second remote-sensing micro satellite. Some student research projects are focused on the development of a nanosatellite for demonstrating satellite formation flying. Research into new, innovative, low-cost technology that can be used on future small satellites is at present our main contribution. Areas of specialisation include satellite attitude and orbit control systems, satellite sensors, onboard computer and data handling systems, radiation tolerant design, image processing, power systems, low-thrust propulsion systems and electro-optical camera design. The satellite work is also sponsored in part by the South African space industry. Facilities include a satellite ground station, environmental testing chambers and electromechanical prototyping.

Contact Prof. WH Steyn for more information on this research activity.

The Electronic Systems Laboratory (ESL) is a Computer and Control Systems division laboratory in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Stellenbosch. It provides opportunities to graduate students and industries to become involved in joint developments of significant size. We aim to maintain skills in computers, data communications, imaging and system simulation through prototype developments.

Research activities

Aeronautical Systems

Current aeronautical systems research focuses on control, automation and system identification for a wide variety of aircraft, including manned and unmanned fixed wing, rotary wing (helicopter) and dirigible vehicles. Successful flight demonstrations of advanced research activities include automated take-off, landing and aerobatic flight of various aircraft. A strong test flight, certification and regulation research drive is also supported. Test aircraft include various UAVs and a manned aircraft based at a local airfield. This research drive is supported by local and international government and industry, including Airbus, Armscor and the NAC (an initiative of the dti).
Contact Dr JAA Engelbrecht for more information on this research activity.

Autonomous Navigation

Research activities include path planning in dynamic environments, Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM) and collision detection and avoidance. This research is applied to and tested on terrestrial and underwater vehicles and to commercial and unmanned aircraft.

Contact Dr CE van Daalen for more information on this research activity.

Contact Dr JAA Engelbrecht for more information on this research activity.

Computer Systems

Research includes a focus on real-time computing for control and communication systems, dynamic reconfigurable data flow and FPGA-based computing architectures. Digital electronic components are also analysed and tested for radiation effects in order to determine the suitability of such components for space system applications. Software, hardware and memory architectures may be designed to help mitigate the effects of prolonged exposure to radiation.

Contact Dr A Barnard for more information on this research activity.

General Control Systems

Research is undertaken on the development of advanced system simulators, non-linear system design (such as solid state laser controllers) as well as control of both airborne and space vehicles, actuation, estimation and automation techniques. Know-how and research are also fostered in the field of system identification. Other research topics include distributed control of loosely coupled systems, servo systems and chemical process control. Facilities include a large commercial position and rate-table, and a kinematic air-table.

Contact Prof. WH Steyn for more information on this research activity.

Satellite Systems

The Satellite Systems group focuses primarily on providing research support to the local South African satellite industry. The group recently participated in the attitude-control development, experimental payloads and ground station support for SumbandilaSat, South Africa’s second remote-sensing micro satellite. Some student research projects are focused on the development of a nanosatellite for demonstrating satellite formation flying. Research into new, innovative, low-cost technology that can be used on future small satellites is at present our main contribution. Areas of specialisation include satellite attitude and orbit control systems, satellite sensors, onboard computer and data handling systems, radiation tolerant design, image processing, power systems, low-thrust propulsion systems and electro-optical camera design. The satellite work is also sponsored in part by the South African space industry. Facilities include a satellite ground station, environmental testing chambers and electromechanical prototyping.

Contact Prof. WH Steyn for more information on this research activity.

Laboratories and Groups

The Electronic Systems Laboratory (ESL) is a Computer and Control Systems division laboratory in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Stellenbosch. It provides opportunities to graduate students and industries to become involved in joint developments of significant size. We aim to maintain skills in computers, data communications, imaging and system simulation through prototype developments.

Research Staff