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GRASP Special Seminar: Dr. Andrzej Banaszuk, Dr. Jason Derenick, Dr. Alberto Speranzon, UTRC, “Autonomous and Intelligent Systems at United Technologies Research Center”

May 16, 2014 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Abstract: We will present UTRC’s research initiative in Autonomous and Intelligent Systems with an emphasis on complex human/machine intelligent systems including unmanned rotorcraft. The research, conducted by a diverse team of researchers in robotics, dynamical systems, control, applied mathematics, computer vision, and computer science (in partnership with several leading universities including CMU, MIT, UPenn, and Caltech) includes:

•         Real-time algorithms for dynamic collision avoidance in an obstacle-rich environment using probabilistic roadmaps.

•         Multi-vehicle missions including efficient search algorithms based on ergodic theory methods.

•         Multi-vehicle navigation with imperfect and intermittent sensors in GPS degraded environments.

•         Intelligent system design methodology including architectures for autonomy, human-machine systems, and formal verification.

In particular, we will provide an overview of a new hierarchical planning framework for mission planning and execution in uncertain and dynamic environments. We consider missions that involve motion planning in large, cluttered environments, trading off mission objectives while satisfying logical/spatial/temporal constraints. Our framework enables the decomposition of the planning problem across different layers, leveraging the difference in spatial and temporal scales of the mission objectives. Of the hierarchical planner we will describe, in some more detail, a novel motion planning algorithm that, starting from a probabilistic roadmap, efficiently constructs an expanded graph used to search for the optimal solution of a multi-objective problem that trades off path length and state estimation accuracy when navigating in a GPS denied environment. Tradeoff between optimality and computational complexity will be discussed as well as open challenge problems.

During the second half of this seminar, the focus turns to the problem of state estimation in GPS-denied, but structurally rich environments (e.g., urban canyons).  A homological mapping and state estimation pipeline is formulated that makes use of dual simplicial nerve complexes for metric-free, time-asynchronous map building using only the binary (and visibility-based) detection of signals of opportunity (e.g., MAC addresses of WiFi access points).  Using these constructs as an approximation to environmental free-space, the notion of “homological sensing” is proposed whereby an agent uses local homology computations to implicitly enumerate the number of physical structures (e.g., buildings) within some coarse proximity to its unknown location. Experimental results demonstrating the utility of said approach for coarse localization using a non-parametric Bayesian filter are presented.

We will conclude with research problems of interest to UTRC and discuss existing and future career opportunities in the broad area of robotics.


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Banaszuk is a Program Leader of Sikorsky Program Office at United
Technologies Research Center. Since joining UTRC in 1997, he has
conducted research
in analysis, design, and control of dynamical systems applied to jet
engines, rotorcraft, electric power networks, and buildings.
Since 2000 he has led collaborative multi-university research
teams in the area of flow control, control of combustion instabilities,
robust design of large uncertain dynamic networks, and autonomy.
He is an author of 44 journal papers, 71 conference papers, and 9 patents.
From 1999 to 2002, he was an Associate Editor of IEEE
Transactions of Controls Systems Technology. He was appointed to serve
on the Board of Governors of IEEE Control Systems Society in 2004. For
his work on active and passive control of flow instabilities
in jet engines he received IEEE Controls Systems Technology Award in
2007. He became an IEEE Fellow in 2011.
He holds Ph.D. in EE from Warsaw University of Technology and Ph.D. in Mathematics from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Derenick is currently a Staff Research Engineer/Scientist at United
Technologies Research Center (UTRC) where he is as a technical lead for
the UTRC/Sikorsky Aircraft
(SAC) Joint Program focused upon fielding autonomous rotorcraft. From
2009-2011, he served as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the GRASP Lab
at UPenn as a member of the Multi-Robots Systems Laboratory where he
worked upon MAST-CTA. He received the Ph.D.
(2009) and M.Sc. (2005) in Computer Science from Lehigh University. He
is co-recipient of the 2013 George Mead Medallion, which is the highest
recognition given by United Technologies Corporation for contributions
in engineering. Among other achievements,
his dissertation was awarded the 2009 Elizabeth V. Stout Dissertation
Award in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at
Lehigh. He was also a key member of the Ben Franklin Racing Team
(joining UPenn, Lehigh and Lockheed), whose entry
in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge finished 4th place. His research
interests include: scalable optimization for cooperative robotic
systems, topological methods, and real-time estimation and perception
algorithms for field robotics.

Speranzon received the ‘‘Laurea’’ degree in computer engineering from
University of Padova, Italy in 2000, the Tech. Lic. and Ph.D. in
automatic control from the School
of Electrical Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm,
Sweden in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Since 2008 he is a Research
Scientist at United Technologies Research Center, in East Harford, CT,
USA. At UTRC, Alberto served as project manager and
principal investigator for DARPA’s ASPN program on novel methods for
distributed localization of multiple vehicles in GPS degraded/denied
environments combining adaptive filtering, graph theoretical and
algebraic topological methods. His research interests
are mainly in the area of distributed control, estimation and
optimization, with particular focus on multi-vehicle systems and
wireless sensor networks. Alberto’s received the Outstanding Achievement
Award in 2009 from United Technologies Research Center.
Before joining UTRC, between October 2006 and September 2008, he was a
Marie Curie Research Fellow at Unilever R&D, Port Sunlight, UK.
During 2006-2008 he was a regular visitor at University of California at
Berkeley, USA working on decentralized estimation
over sensor networks.


May 16, 2014
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Event Category: