Spring 2019 GRASP Seminar Series: Wolfgang Fink, Caltech, "Towards Autonomous Robotic Exploration of Extreme Environments"

ABSTRACT

Autonomous reconnaissance missions are called for in extreme environments, as well as in potentially hazardous (e.g., the theatre, disaster-stricken areas, etc.) or inaccessible operational areas (e.g., planetary surfaces, space). Such future missions will require increasing degrees of operational autonomy, especially when following up on transient events. Operational autonomy encompasses: (1) Automatic characterization of operational areas from different vantages (i.e., spaceborne, airborne, surface, subsurface); (2) automatic sensor deployment and data gathering; (3) automatic feature extraction including anomaly detection and region-of-interest identification; (4) automatic target prediction and prioritization; (5) and subsequent automatic (re-)deployment and navigation of robotic agents. This talk will report on progress towards several aspects of an autonomous C4ISR robotic testbed at the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory (http://autonomy.arizona.edu), including: robotic agent development (ground, water-based), robotic behavior motifs as the building blocks for autonomous operations, and autonomous decision making based on a patented framework comprising sensor-data-fusion, unbiased anomaly detection, and target prioritization for follow-up investigations.

Presenter's biography

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Fink is the inaugural Edward & Maria Keonjian Endowed Chair of Microelectronics with joint appointments in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Systems and Industrial Engineering, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, and Ophthalmology and Vision Science at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He was a Visiting Associate in Physics at the California Institute of Technology (2001-2016), a Visiting Research Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurological Surgery at the University of Southern California (2005-2014), and a Senior Researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2001-2009). Dr. Fink is the founder and director of the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory at Caltech (http://autonomy.caltech.edu) and at the University of Arizona (http://autonomy.arizona.edu). He obtained a B.S. and M.S. degree in Physics and Physical Chemistry from the University of Göttingen, Germany in 1990 and 1993, respectively, and a Ph.D. “summa cum laude” in Theoretical Physics from the University of Tübingen, Germany in 1997. Dr. Fink’s interest in human-machine interfaces, autonomous/reasoning systems, and evolutionary optimization has focused his research programs on artificial vision, autonomous robotic space exploration, biomedical sensor/system development, cognitive/reasoning systems, and computer-optimized design. Dr. Fink is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), a Fellow of the Prognostics and Health Management (PHM) Society, a Senior Member IEEE, and the 2015 da Vinci Fellow and 2017 ACABI Fellow of the University of Arizona. He has over 240 publications (including journal, book, and conference contributions), 6 NASA Patent Awards, as well as 19 US and foreign patents awarded to date (with numerous more pending) in the areas of autonomous systems, biomedical devices, neural stimulation, MEMS fabrication, data fusion and analysis, and multi-dimensional optimization. In addition, Dr. Fink holds a Commercial Pilots License for Rotorcraft.