Rusty Roberts Named Director of GTRI’s Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems Laboratory

Published: February 13, 2009

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Rusty Roberts is returning to the GTRI Cobb County Research Facility where his Georgia Tech career began in 1988. Since January, he has been director of GTRI's Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems (ATAS) laboratory, one of two units headquartered at the Cobb facility near Dobbins Air Reserve Base.

His appointment comes after eight years of service as the associate director for business development in GTRI's Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory, 12 years as program manager in the Systems Development Laboratory that was merged to create ATAS, and 10 years as an officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

"I'm excited to lead the ATAS laboratory and inject my own thoughts and ideas into the direction that this group of researchers should go," said Roberts. "I was able to hit the ground running because I already knew about 80 percent of the researchers in the laboratory - whether from working here previously or from reaching out and collaborating while I was in ITTL."

ATAS has a long legacy of providing threat radar simulators to the test and evaluation community, but also of solving complex problems in the diverse areas of aeronautics, acoustics, transportation, and power and energy. Another key capability within ATAS is its Food Processing Technology Division, which provides cutting edge technical solutions to the food processing industry.

"The diversity of the laboratory presents its challenges, but I'm going to try to connect the overlapping capabilities and core competencies, both technical abilities and sponsors, among the groups," said Roberts.

While he doesn't want to make major changes immediately, Roberts plans to gradually increase the number of laboratory personnel and sponsors.

"I want to revitalize our core threat business, exploit our prototyping abilities, use my expertise in business development to expand the outreach of the Food Processing Technology Division, and bring some of the U.S. Department of Defense contacts I've developed to the aerospace researchers."

He also wants to grow the laboratory's unmanned autonomous systems capability. Growth in this area will be aided by a contract recently awarded to Roberts and GTRI principal research engineer Lora Weiss to support development of a roadmap designed to improve the testing and evaluation of unmanned and autonomous systems for the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense. GTRI is also participating in other UAV programs, including a multi-organization effort aimed at developing very small autonomous devices.

A nationally recognized expert in test and evaluation, Roberts is currently vice president and executive committee member of the International Test and Evaluation Association. He also started and presently leads a GTRI-wide test and evaluation initiative that brought together the Joint Systems Integration Command and the Defense Test Resource Management Center. The resulting collaboration directly led to a $1.9 million research award. 

Roberts has also worked with U.S. government officials to establish key requirements for the testing of U.S. electronic countermeasures against surface-to-air missile threats and has been able to provide solutions developed by GTRI. 

During his time in the Systems Development Laboratory from 1988-2000, Roberts led several projects that provided threat assets to major U.S. test ranges. One system still in use today at China Lake's Electronic Combat Range replicated a high-density electronic environment used to test electronic countermeasures.

Roberts also led the efforts that developed the Missile-on-a-Mountain program at the Electronic Combat Range in China Lake, Calif. This one-of-a-kind simulation facility has been called a key national asset in testing electronic countermeasures against surface-to-air missile systems. The facility is in high demand by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and allied air forces.

A self-proclaimed "people person" and across-laboratory collaborator, Roberts is eager to begin this new chapter of his career.

"I'm coming back to the laboratory where I had some of my favorite projects and couldn't be happier," added Roberts. "My door is always open and I look forward to talking with everyone in the laboratory, getting their inputs and making changes if necessary."

Roberts earned a master of business administration in finance from Long Island University in 1987, a master of science degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech in 1985 and a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from West Point in 1978.

He has been married since 1990 to Cindy, whom he met while working at GTRI. She currently supports GTRI's deputy director of support operations. They have three grown children - Bobby, Christina and Kevin - and live in Marietta.