About Us



Housed in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University, the Electronic Systems Laboratory is home to a large number of masters and PhD students. Under the guidance of the resident study leaders and engineers, students primarily conduct research related to modeling, control and automation of aerospace, terrestrial and underwater vehicles.

Aside from post-graduate study activities, the ESL is also involved in the development of advanced vehicle demonstrators for industry partners as well as satellite systems for commercial distribution.


The ESL was established in 1991 and served as the development facility for SUNSAT, South Africa’s first operational space satellite. SUNSAT was launched in 1999 and was operated from a ground station within the ESL for two years (well past its design life-time).

Soon after the launch of SUNSAT, a start-up company called Sun Space and Information Systems (SunSpace) was spun-out from the ESL in order to, amongst other activities, develop commercial satellites. The latest delivery, a partnership between the ESL and SunSpace, was SumbandilaSat, contracted by the South African Department of Science and Technology to Stellenbosch University. This satellite was launched in September 2009 (and more information can be found on the Sumbandila Mission Blog).

After the formation on SunSpace, Prof. Garth Milne lead a research thrust expanding the ESL’s activities towards the control and automation of air, terrestrial and underwater vehicles. Further ties were established with government and industry partners including Airbus, Armscor, ATE, the CSIR (DPSS, Meraka, NLC), the DTI and DST, Denel, the NAC and IMT.

The areas of research have been expanded to include

Area of Research Research Group(s) Involved
  • Aeronautical Systems Research
  • Autonomous Navigation
  • Autonomous Take-Off and Landing
  • Fault Tolerant Control and Upset Recovery
  • Ground Vehicles Research
  • Autonomous Navigation
  • Underwater Systems Research
  • Autonomous Navigation
  • Space Systems Research
  • Space Systems
Browse from the Research navigation item to find out more about these research areas, as well as the projects that they encompass. World-class facilities are also available to our researchers and information regarding these can be found under the Facilities navigation item at the top of the page.

The ESL specializes in research and technology development relating to the automation of air, space, terrestrial and underwater vehicles. Typical activities include the support of PhD- and Master-level graduate study and the development of technology demonstrators and advanced vehicle demonstrators for industry partners. Approximately 12 academic and technical staff members and 45 graduate students work towards achieving the ESL’s project goals. Our 1200 square meter facility is located on the ground floor of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.