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Research Projects

The Aerospace Robotics Laboratory conducts fundamental research in many different areas including autonomous navigation of air, land and water vehicles, underwater stationkeeping and sea floor mapping, as well as problems for robots climbing in natural terrain. Our past research has included vehicular robotics, redundant and flexible manipulators, high-level sensing systems, human-robot interaction, and software development strategies.

Present Research

Climbing Robotics

In collaboration with JPL, the ARL has been researching enabling robotic free climbing (e.g. climbing using only natural features of the terrain, not devices such as pegs in holes). The research in this lab has focused on the motion planning and control problems. We have tested our motion planning algorithms on the JPL's LEMUR robot. We are in the process of testing our control algorithms in simulation and on the ARL's free flying robots in order to eventually enable their test on LEMUR.

Underwater Robotics

OTTER is a hover capable underwater vehicle which we operate in a test tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). Current and past research includes texture-based vision processing for feedback control and real-time mosaicking, fully autonomous intervention missions, and hydrodynamic modelling of underwater manipulators.

Free Flying Robots

This testbed consists of three self-contained (on-board computer, power, propulsion, wireless communication, etc..) air cushion vehicles floating on a polished granite plate. This system simulates in 2 dimensions the drag-free environment of space. An overhead vision system as well as an indoor GPS system are used for sensing.

Current research on this testbed involves designing sensing and control strategies for a rock climbing robot. Past research on the free fliers includes: formation flying control design and maneuver planning, on-board GPS sensing for self-contained relative positioning, and real-time dynamic trajectory generation for multiple moving vehicles in a field with moving obstacles.

Mars Rover Navigation Using GPS Self-Calibrating Pseudolite Arrays

One of the many difficulties associated with robotic exploration is that of navigational sensing. Future robotic missions to Mars and other planets would benefit greatly from the centimeter-level accuracy and high repeatability characteristic of GPS. Th is project has developed a local-area GPS-type system based on pseudolites (ground transmitters) to provide this capability in the absence of a satellite-based system.

Past Research

Autonomous Helicopters

The HUMMINGBIRD Autonomous Helicopter uses Carrier Phase Differential GPS (CDGPS) and computer vision to accomplish real world tasks such as object tracking and vision-based stationkeeping. This project focuses on the helicopter as a system and examines ways to improve it, from the sensing onboard to the computer interface presented to the untrained user.

Macro-Micro Manipulators

This manipulator consists of a large, flexible macro arm with two smaller micro arms. The macro arm has a large workspace but limited speed, the micro arms are faster but have a limited workspace - like a human's arm and fingers.

MARS: Micro-Autonomous RoverS

The MARS Test-Bed is used to investigate high-level planning of multi-robot systems. Current research includes motion planning, assembly and manipulation planning.

Human-Robot Interaction

The many types of robots developed in the ARL have provided a variety of perspectives on field robot operation. The human-robot interaction projects have sought to understand the basic principles that create effective human-robot teams. Past projects have developed graphics libraries for monitoring real-time systems and augmented robot sensing with human perception. Current research has included observations of police Special Weapons and Tactics teams, the integration of concepts from Human-Computer Interaction, and the development of object-based interactions for complex systems.

Redundant Manipulators

Real-Time Software

Integrated Factory Workcell

This project examined the integration of real-time planning capabilities in a reconfigurable workcell. This includes aspects such as task-level user interfaces, task planning, and subsystem communications and cooperation.

Cooperative Robotic Manipulators

The successful cooperation of multiple robot arms is an important capability for complex tasks involving physical manipulation. This research explored task-level, cooperative, non-linear force control in the presence of joint flexibility.

Flexible Manipulators

Manipulation by very flexible structures, such as the Space Shuttle RMS, is a very challenging task. This project demonstrated end-point force control by a two-link flexible arm. The macro-mini configuration allows very fast and precise end-point contol.
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