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GRASP Special Seminar: Jim Keller, University of Pennsylvania, “Parametric Polynomials for Path Definition: An overview of spline-based techniques for path generation, definition, or navigation. The benefits and pitfalls…”

April 28, 2016 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


Fixed-wing UAVs are excellent platforms for persistent surveillance type applications. Their superiority with respect to range, payload, and endurance.

It may be rightly argued that path planning to a goal state from an arbitrary initial condition has been exhaustively studied, as evidenced by comprehensive surveys by LaValle and Choset. However, the complete coverage requirement of the persistent surveillance application greatly increases the problem complexity.  The consequence is that the designer must be willing to tolerate approximate or heuristic solutions to the general coverage problem. Practical design space remains for applications that must run on embedded systems.

Parametric polynomials provide an alternate approach that retains algorithmic fidelity to underlying physics of flight in a more computationally attractive framework than the typical equations of motion used in analyses.  We will discuss techniques that originate in computer graphics and animation applications and outline how they can be tailored for autonomous vehicle path planning. While offering great advantages, these techniques also have a few pitfalls for the unsuspecting developer, so the pros and cons will be discussed.  An overview of a number of spline-based approaches will be documented.


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Jim Keller is a research staff engineer at the University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab (10 years). He is also a part-time PhD student in Mechanical Engineering. While Jim’s primary area of expertise at GRASP is fixed wing autonomous aerial vehicles, he has supported a number of projects over the years, including the DARPA Urban Grand Challenge car “Little Ben”, the Collaborative Autonomous Navigation in a Networked Environment (CANINE) project for the U.S. Army and a variety of UAV related programs for the Navy and DARPA. His thesis research involves path planning for persistent surveillance type flight plans. He is also actively involved with middle and high school robotics outreach programs at GRASP.
Jim is also a part-time employee of the Boeing Company’s Philadelphia helicopter division where he is an Associate Technical Fellow in the area of flight controls and handling qualities. He has over 30 year of experience with design, development, simulation and flight test with all Boeing rotor-craft models.


April 28, 2016
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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