I am an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at UCLA and Director of the VECTR Laboratory. My broad research interests are nonlinear and optimal control theory, localization and mapping, and autonomy with application to aerospace systems. I am most interested in developing principled approaches that improve the reliability and performance of autonomous aerospace systems operating in diverse or uncertain conditions. My research advances core functionalities such as trajectory design, state estimation, mapping, and decision making under uncertainty. Autonomous exploration, emergency response, advanced urban mobility, orbit insertion, and spacecraft entry, descent, and landing are a few applications of interest.

I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA-JPL (2019-2021) where I worked on the DARPA Subterranean Challenge leading the development of a fully autonomous sUAS capable of navigating perceptually challenging environments. I received my PhD (2019) and SM (2016) degrees from MIT where I worked on nonlinear control theory and high-speed sUAS collision avoidance as part of the DARPA Fast Lightweight Autonomy program. I received my BS in Aerospace Engineering (2014) from UCLA and AS in Mathematics (2011) from El Camino College.

I can be reached at btlopez at ucla dot edu.

aquila Left: VECTR Lab’s drone flying autonomously in an underground Limestone mine
Right: Metric map of another Limestone mine generated using VECTR Lab’s custom LiDAR-inertial odometry and mapping algorithm (github repo).

Selected Awards

UCLA Faculty Career Development Award (2023)
Nominated for IEEE Control Systems Letters Outstanding Paper Award (2023)
UCLA MAE Outstanding Teaching Award (2023)
First place in the IEEE Control Systems Society Video Clip Contest (2015)
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2014)
UCLA Aerospace Engineering Outstanding Bachelor of Science (2014)


Optimal Control (Fall 2024)
Aerospace Design Laboratory (Spring 2022, 2023)
Introduction to Feedback and Control Systems (Winter 2022, 2023)