CAST: A Photographic Tour

In fall 2017, Caltech opened its new Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST); it is a 10,000-square-foot facility where machines and researchers work together and learn from one another (See video of the facility's construction here.). At CAST, researchers from the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory collaborate to create the next generation of autonomous systems, advancing the fields of drone research, autonomous exploration, and bioinspired systems.


CAST’s centerpiece is a three-story-tall, wholly enclosed aerodrome—the tallest of its kind—in which to test flying drones.

The aerodrome includes a wall of 1,296 fans, with a side wall of 324 fans to create a crosswind. The individually controllable fans can generate any type of wind that flying vehicles will face in the real world—from a light gust to a stormy vortex. The wall can also be tilted 90 degrees to simulate vertical takeoffs and landings. Bipedal robot Cassie struts her stuff in the foreground. 

A total of 46 cameras provide complete coverage of the interior, tracking each robot’s motion down to within 100 microns (about the thickness of a human hair).

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In the aerospace robotics control lab, a high-precision flat floor allows researchers to fly vehicles that have been engineered to hover through high-pressure jets and simulate the frictionless motion of space flight.


The assembly room boasts a modular design and features an 85-foot-long overhead oval track for walking robots.


Corporations and industry members play a key part in the development of CAST technologies and systems. With the lead sponsorship of Raytheon Company as well as the support of corporations such as AeroVironment, industry partnerships are helping fund CAST and the development of the next generations of autonomous systems. Through these partnerships and collaborations, industry members will assist CAST researchers in bringing the resulting products to market faster.

This endowed center was established through the generous support of Foster and Coco Stanback. More information about the CAST facility can be found online at

Read our story on the October 2017 opening of the CAST facility here