A2Sys Lab takes first in firefighting drone competition

April 2, 2019
A2Sys Lab poses with award money
Ella Atkins, Jeremy Castagno, Prince Kuevor, and Matthew Romano won the 2019 Swarm & Search AI Challenge held in Dayton, Ohio over March 29-31, 2019. Photo courtesy A2Sys Lab.

Last year, California experienced the single largest wildfire in its recorded history, a wildfire in Greece killed 100, and wildfires in the British Columbia surpassed the historic proportions seen only the year before. Water and firebreaks can fight immediate threats, but improved mapping and better planning in deploying such resources can maximize impact and minimize risk, reducing the impact of fires over an entire season.

One way to improve mapping and firefighting plans? Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and algorithms that allow them to operate autonomously.

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Speaking like dolphins, a robot fleet takes on underwater tasks

December 17, 2018
An underwater autonomous robot built to inspect dams, bridges, and hulls of ships practices by inspecting the side of a pool. Courtesy of Joshua Mangelson.

In a Navy shipyard in San Diego, a new generation of underwater robots are learning to communicate and collaborate in order to inspect boats, bridges, pipelines, and other underwater structures. Developed by Joshua Mangelson, a University of Michigan doctoral student in Robotics, the autonomous vehicles overcome the many challenges posed by murky water by simplifying how the robots coordinate and communicate.

Water, while the basis of life for many, means death for wireless communication. “Below a meter or two of water, Wi-Fi cuts out completely,” Mangelson said. “Same with GPS signals. This is because water attenuates electromagnetic signals very quickly, which makes underwater exploration and mapping a very interesting problem.”

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Decentralized air traffic control for drone-laden skies

December 17, 2018

Anticipating skies crowded with crisscrossing autonomous vehicles, University of Michigan researchers have developed a future air traffic control system that allows any number of autonomous planes to safely route around each other to their final destinations.

Kunal Garg, a University of Michigan graduate student, designed the system to be utilized by autonomous fixed-wing aircraft, which require more time and space to turn than rotorcraft such as quadcopters. The work could be extended to autonomous vehicles, which follow similar turning dynamics.

In this simulation, autonomous fixed-wing aircraft change goal points and flight modes to avoid collisions based on control laws developed by Kunal Garg.
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Virtual reality job trials for collaborative robots

October 11, 2018
construction worker reads plans
A construction worker reads plans for the GG Brown Addition on North Campus. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering

Robots seem a perfect match for many of the exacting, tedious, and repetitive jobs that occur on a construction site, and they can free up human workers to take on more complex tasks. However, introducing robots capable of nailing drywall or laying loads of brick can introduce unfamiliar dangers to a worksite already full of hazards from heavy machinery, power tools, and cranes dangling steel beams.

To ensure humans feel safe working with and around new robots, researchers at the University of Michigan developed and tested a social theory using a platform that is able to prototype robots in an immersive virtual reality.

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