New Autonomous Systems Laboratory Course Allows NPS Students to Explore Key Research Areas in Intelligent Robotics

November 10, 2011 - via Naval Postgraduate School

What you see today is a number of students of a newly developed Autonomous Systems Laboratory course at the MAE department “playing” with robotic rovers in specifically crafted team games.

In today's first laboratory experiment, the students mimic the functionality of onboard sensors using their own visual perception of the environment and drive the rovers manually thus replicating system autonomy by human-in the loop efforts. Exploring the challenges of autonomy by “playing” helps students understand the key building blocks necessary to perform these same tasks autonomously and develop a better appreciation for the value of the algorithms built into the robots. In subsequent laboratory experiments, the students will perform these same tasks by running the robots autonomously. They will face the ultimate truth – can robots do a better job?

It is envisioned by the course developers that by fostering experimental interaction with a friendly robotic platform (an RC car and an autopilot developed and integrated by researchers at NPS) a student can build more intuitive rather than theoretical understanding of key autonomous systems concepts necessary for the intelligent robotics. Thus, the Autonomous Systems Laboratory makes the first step in bridging the gap between the initial interest in a general field of robotics and core theoretical courses in Autonomous Systems where students will thoroughly investigate autonomous operations, human-machine interaction, cognitive systems and many other key components in detail.

After receiving formal approval from the Academic Council, the course will be offered by the MAE department to all interested students at NPS. The aim of this course is to introduce current and future military officer students and defense  engineers to a conceptual approach of overall design of unmanned intelligent systems including concepts of sensing, navigation and control, communication, payloads, multiple UxVs vehicle architectures, mission planning and operations that are relevant to ongoing and future asymmetric warfare. The hands-on experience offered by the course is intended to leap-frog the students’ knowledge and understanding in diverse technical and operational areas in autonomous systems, with the ultimate objective of equipping future decision makers with a fundamental understanding of the key research directions in intelligent robotics.

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Author:Vladimir Dobrokhodov, Mark Karpenko, Kevin Jones, Isaac Kaminer and I. Michael Ross