Current Positions and Offices

 Associate Director, Robotics
 Systems Department
 United Technologies Research Center

President (2018-2019)
IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society
Adjunct Professor
Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation
Deakin University


Dr. Tunstel received the B.S. and M.E. degrees in Mechanical Engineering, with a concentration in robotics, from Howard University. His thesis addressed the use of symbolic computation for automated modeling of robotic manipulators / arms. In 1989 he joined the Robotic Intelligence Group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) supporting research and development activities on NASA planetary rover projects.  As a JPL Fellow he received the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Mexico.  His dissertation addresses distributed fuzzy control of adaptive hierarchical behavior-based systems and its application to mobile robot navigation.

He was a Senior Robotics Engineer at JPL and Group Leader of its Advanced Robotic Controls Group developing autonomous control and navigation algorithms, software, and systems for planetary rover research and flight projects. He served on the NASA Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) flight project as a Flight Systems Engineer specializing in surface mobility & autonomous navigation, and on its surface operations Spacecraft/Rover Engineering Team as Lead of its mobility and robotic arm sub-element.  This role involved him in the daily performance assessment, planning, and operations of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers during their first 4 years on Mars.  Prior assignments included JPL PI/Task Manager for distributed science instrument system mobility and surveying, Robotics Space Exploration Technology Program management assistance, Lead Systems Engineer for the Field Integrated Design and Operations (FIDO) rover technology task, Task Manager for a study on disseminating NASA robotics software to universities, and researcher for a study on future large space telescope technology,

After 18 years at JPL he joined the Space Department of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in 2007 as its Space Robotics and Autonomous Control Lead and later served as Senior Roboticist in its Research & Exploratory Development Department.  In these roles he led and defined the technical direction of robotics technology development and autonomous control capabilities for space mission applications and human-collaborative teams of autonomous robots and unmanned vehicles. He also contributed to modular open systems architecture development for advanced EOD robotic systems and bimanual dexterous mobile manipulation systems. After a decade at APL, he joined United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) as an Associate Director of Robotics to help incubate a new research group to study, develop, and transition relevant technologies for human-collaborative robotics including associated strategy development in the context of the UTC business units.

Dr. Tunstel has authored over 150 journal, book chapter and conference publications, and has edited 4 books in his areas of expertise. He is a Fellow of IEEE and President of the IEEE SMC Society during 2018-2019, having previously served in several of its VP roles and as General Chair of the 2011 IEEE SMC conference. He is an active 
member of the IEEE SMC Technical Committees on Robotics & Intelligent Sensing and on Model-Based Systems Engineering, IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Space Robotics, and the AIAA Space Automation and Robotics Technical Committee. He also served as Chief Technologist of NSBE Space, a special interest group of NSBE Professionals, and held memberships in the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, the New York Academy of Sciences, and ASME. He is an Associate Editor or Editorial Board Member of five international engineering journals.

In academia, he is an adjunct faculty member of Deakin University in Australia, chairs an advisory board for an autonomy center of excellence (TECHLAV) at N.C. A&T State University, and has also served as NASA Technical Monitor for undergraduate student research programs and for NASA Faculty Awards for Research as well as co-advisor and committee member for graduate thesis and dissertation research at several universities.