Thursday, June 16, 2016

2016-06-16: Autonomy Incubator a Smash Hit at AIAAAviation 2016

The Autonomy Incubator squad in DC
(Anna, Javier, Alex, Jim, Meghan, Lauren, Loc, Danette, Paul)

The Autonomy Incubator (Ai) team may have dominated at AIAA Aviation 2015 last year, but this year set a new standard of excellence for our PIs and interns. We crushed it, America. There's just no other way to say it.

Danette Allen, head of the Ai, presented both on Monday and on Friday of the conference, giving talks on outer-loop needs for autonomous medical transport in remote regions like Alaska and "serious gaming" for ab-initio design of the National Airspace System, respectively.

Danette holds court during her Monday lecture.

On Thursday, Danette also chaired the Ai's special session, entitled "Transformational Flight: Autonomy." Here's what the lineup looked like:

PI Anna Trujillo kicked the session off with a presentation on intuitive controls for non-UAV pilots controlling a fleet of heterogeneous UAVs. Anna is the Ai's resident expert in human-system interaction (HSI) with a focus on encouraging trust and cooperation between humans and autonomous machines.

Intern Meghan Chandarana complemented Anna's talk by presenting her research on using gestural controls for UAVs. Those of you who remember her work last summer remember Meghan's gesture-recognition software.

Intern Javier Puig-Navarro followed with a discussion of the work he's doing with trajectory generation and the Ai's atmospheric sampling mission. Javier was one half of the power duo from University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne (UIUC) who set our in-lab record for most UAVs in autonomous coordinated flight last year as part of the same mission.

Next, PI Loc Tran presented on object detection and classification and its applications in navigation for small autonomous UAVs. Loc's work combines machine learning with computer vision and other sensors (accelerometers, gyroscopes, etc.) to create UAVs capable of navigating and avoiding obstacles on their own.

PI Jim Neilan kept the momentum going with an engaging description of the state of the art and the state of the practice in building autonomous systems. Jim most recently grabbed the Ai spotlight in our outdoor tests this month.

Finally, the Ai wrapped up its special session with a guest appearance from former intern Alex Hagiopol, who flew in from California to present his Region-based 3D Reconstruction approach developed at Georgia Tech in collaboration with the Ai.

Our presence at AIAA Aviation 2016 was hardly limited to our special session, however. PI Paul Rothhaar gave a talk on distributed control for UAVs...

... and intern Lauren Howell presented her research on spline generation and Bezier curves for path-planning algorithms as part of a student paper contest. She gave such a stellar performance that graduate schools are already trying to recruit her to their labs!

The Ai is thrilled to have had the opportunity to present so much of our Reserach portfolio at this AIAA venue. We're also thrilled that all of our interns made it back safely Thursday night, despite the tornadoes and baseball-sized hail that peppered their drives home. Overall, it was a good week to be a part of the NASA LaRC Autonomy Incubator.

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