Published: May 23, 2023

A RAAVEN flight over the Plains.
Above: CU Boulder RAAVEN (Robust Autonomous Airborne Vehicle - Endurant and Nimble) uncrewed aerial vehicle flying over a wind farm.
Headline Photo: Showcasing a large uncrewed aerial vehicle east of Boulder.

The University of Colorado Boulder has been named 1st place winner in Academic Research category of the XCELLENCE Awards by the Association for Uncrewed Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI).

CU Boulder was selected from a pool of applicants for their work in uncrewed systems technology. Winners were publicly congratulated during the XCELLENCE awards ceremony during AUVSI XPONENTIAL on May 9.

CU Boulder’s Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles (RECUV), and Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing Program (IRISS) have led small uncrewed aerial systems (sUAS) research for more than 20 years. With increasingly autonomous operations, this research supports applications from military communications to severe convective storms over the Great Plains to ocean-atmosphere interactions in the Arctic and the tropics.

“On behalf of my colleagues in the Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles, the Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing Program, and our collaborators around the world, I thank AUVSI for recognizing our UAS research with the 2023 XCELLENCE Award for Academic Research. We look forward to this recognition encouraging even more partnerships and collaborations," said Brian Argrow, a professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences and director of IRISS.

Major achievements from CU Boulder UAS programs include:

  • Design and demonstration of the US Air Force Ad-Hoc UAS Ground Network (AUGNet), the first meshed-radio, mobile ad-hoc network supported by multi-sUAS teams
  • FAA certificates of authorization for severe-weather research now covering more than 500,000 sq-mi of the Great Plains
  • The first sUAS meteorological measurements in a tornadic supercell thunderstorm, part of the NSF/NOAA Second Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Supercells Experiment (VORTEX2)
  • Multi-sUAS measurements of turbulence in the nocturnal boundary layer in the month-long NSF Instabilities, Dynamics, and Energetics Accompanying Layering (IDEAL) campaign in Utah
  • sUAS measurements in 15 supercells (seven with tornadoes) during the 2019 NSF/NOAA Targeted Observations with Radar and UAS of Supercells (TORUS) campaign
  • Monthlong measurement campaign from Barbados for NOAA’s Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign (ATOMIC) in 2020
  • 6-month sUAS measurement campaign to study sea-ice-atmosphere interactions from the Polarstern icebreaker near the North Pole for the international MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) expedition
  • 4-month campaign supporting the US DOE’s Tracking Aerosol Convection Interactions Experiment (TRACER) near Houston, TX

Other sUAS campaigns include the North Slope of Alaska, Antarctica, Peru, Japan, and Norway.

The AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards honor innovators with a demonstrated commitment to advancing autonomy, leading, and promoting safe adoption of uncrewed systems and developing programs that use these technologies to save lives and improve the human condition.

For more information about AUVSI visit For more information about the AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards and XPONENTIAL 2023, visit