This site describes my ongoing work at the University of Waterloo in the development of perception, planning and coordination algorithms for autonomous vehicles. I focus primarily on aerial vehicles, such as quadrotor helicopters and Micro Air Vehicles, and have recently begun efforts in teams of ground vehicles. I am the director of the Waterloo Autonomous Vehicles Laboratory (WAVELab), and enjoy advising the undergraduate student teams UW Micro Aerial Vehicles and Waterloo Aerial Robotics Group, both involved in the development of UAV platforms for international competitions. Prospective students should visit my list of OPEN POSITIONS.
September 20th, 2011 - Peiyi Chen and Ryan Gariepy have graduated
Peiyi has wrapped up a fascinating Master's on real time motion planning for quadrotors in complex environments. His method involves using PRMs to generate paths through the environment, and then transforming those paths using provably safe motion primitives and precise trajectory tracking control. Ryan Gariepy developed a vision only indoor quadrotor position estimator using really low quality image data, the kind one can expect to get from light weight, low-cost vision sensors. The algorithm combined easy to compute features with a tightly coupled RANSAC/EKF to generate reliable velocity estimates for stabilization. More details available in their publications (see the publications page).
July 23rd, 2011 - WAVELab Robotics cleans up at the International Autonomous Robot Racing Competition
After the frustration of last year's pre-race crash, it was great to see our team dominate the competition at this year's event. We placed first in design, circuit and drag races, and demonstrated phenomenal agility when it was learned on race day that the vehicle had to cover both concrete and grass driving conditions. The team quickly coded up a visual grass detector, and re-tuned control gains to better navigate the slippery green stuff.
June 7th, 2011 - WAVELab Robotics and UWRT Place Second in Design Challenge at IGVC 2011
The beast Indrik came to life for IGVC this year, with an excellent design that came second (by 4 points out of 300) in the design compeition. The team also placed fourth in the JAUS interoperability challenge, and in the top 10 in the navigation challenge, all out of 56 teams that entered and 40 that attended the event. This was an extremely ambitious project to be completed in four months and kudos to the guys for getting as far as they did with limited time. A last minute failure of the embedded PC eliminated the chance to enter the autonomous challenge, but I'm fairly certain the team will be back next year for more!
May 9th, 2011 - Waterloo Aerial Robotics Places Second at the UVS Canada Student Competition
The WARG Zephyr, despite a frustrating communications glitch on day two of the competition, was able to place second out of 14 registered teams in the UVS Canada student competition. The event required an autonomous UAV to search for ground targets in a known area and relay video information to a ground operator. The only team to completely design and build their UAV from scratch, all team members can be extremely satisfied with their accomplishment.
April 30th, 2011 - Carlos Wang Graduates
After two years of hard work, Carlos has successfully completed his Masters with the thesis, "Monocular Vision-Based Obstacle Detection for Unmanned Systems". By extracting and matching features in successive images and combining them with image segmentation regions, Carlos was able to construct 3D maps of the environment that fill in the area between features to more completely reconstruct the scene. Congrats, Carlos!
April 12th, 2011 - Aeryon Scout Mapping with Lidar and Octomap
The Scout now has a Hokuyo Lidar mounted to its bottom and is being used to map indoor environments in real time using ROS and the stellar Octomap package. This video shows both the flight and the resulting map, and we expect to take this out doors as well soon.
March 23rd, 2011 - Two teams win Best Technical Design Award
Both my Mechatronics teams won the best technical design award this year, and both projects were excellent. The UWMAV autopilot team completely redid the board design and now have a commercially viable product that will hopefully soon be available on Robotshop. The IC 20/20 project developed a Kinect SLAM algorithm that uses the camera for visual odometry and then builds a dense 3D depth map from the Kinect sensor and colours the voxels through projection of the camera data. They also made a really cool video.
November 15th, 2010 - The Aeryon Scout Flies Indoors
After many successful demos in the new E5 building and lab, we finally recorded a flight test for everyone to see. Using the Optitrack Indoor Positioning system for position, the video shows lab members Prasenjit Mukherjee and Peiyi Chen commanding arbitrary 3D trajectories for the Scout using a tracked wand. Controller performance is still a bit sloppy, but things are progressing nicely. This video also highlights our inverted prop design, which has been demonstrated to reduce on board acceleration noise by 30%.
September 23rd, 2010 - PhD Positions available
Please see the listings posted on the Open Graduate Positions page.
July 30th, 2010 - UW Autonomous Racing Team takes 2nd place at the International Autonomous Robot Racing Competition
Despite a catastrophic encounter with a curb one week before the competition, the UWAR team was able to win both the circuit and design competition and take 2nd overall at the 2010 International Autonomous Robot Racing Competition in Windsor, ON. Team members Prasenjit Mukherjee, Carlos Wang, Arun Das and Gerardo Salas first built an imposing carbon fiber protected hulk of a bot capable of 50 kph drag racing and 15 kph autonomous circuit race navigation and then caused unrecoverable damage to the monster by racing at top speed into an obstacle. The team quickly ported the code to a backup Clearpath platform with a top speed of 2 kph and proceeded to bore the competition into submission without a single error on all three laps the 5 minute circuit course. Great work, guys, and looking forward to next year!
March 24th, 2010 - UWMAV Autopilot Team Wins Best Technical Design Project for Mechatronics
After more than a year of hard work and numerous set backs, the UWMAV autopilot team was able to put together a 100 gm prototype autopilot and accurately estimate attitude, velocity and position for arbitrary motion. Relying on an Extended Kalman filter for estimation, the hard part was really the electronic design, including development of a custom PCB and integration of GPS, IMU, pressure sensors and a camera. Congratulations are in order for team members Prasenjit Mukherjee, Neil Matthew, Mitchell English, Jinal Surti and Rahul Shahani. Great work, guys!
To see more details, check out the dedicated autopilot website.
February 11th, 2010 - Waterloo Engineering Video
A promotional video for the University of Waterloo Engineering Office of Research is now up on youtube. Lots of great shots of me, my phone, my laptop, the messy lab, some wires, oh, and the quadrotors in flight. This is part of an ongoing series for the Engineering Office of Research to help promote the university as a hotbed for collaboration and innovation.
February 2nd, 2010 - UWMAV Fixed Wing Vehicle
The fixed wing team has put together its first prototype vehicle, with an innovative recycled fuselage. Testing is underway to see how the wing design holds up, and how close we are to being able to lift the current autopilot payload. Lots more testing to go before IMAV 2010!