[robotics-worldwide] PhD Positions - AUV Cognition & Autonomy

Francesco Maurelli francesco.maurelli at gmail.com
Wed Jun 20 10:41:12 PDT 2012

PhD Positions Available

Persistent Autonomy for Underwater Vehicles

PhD positions are available immediately on research programmes aiming to 
enhance the cognition of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The 
overall research theme is Persistent Autonomy – developing the 
underlying computational mechanisms that enable AUVs to achieve mission 
goals in unforeseen situations by adapting their actions based on 
observation and description of their environment, their condition and 
their own performance in executing tasks. Applications are for 
inspection, cleaning and intervention tasks in the oilfield using hover 
capable AUVs, and for underwater archaeological survey with multiple 

Three technical areas are being emphasised, complementing a portfolio of 
work already underway. The PhDs will be drawn from these areas according 
to the interest and aptitude of the successful applicants.

1.Matching and adapting semantic descriptions of the surrounding 
environment in ontologies using feature based localisation (SLAM) from 
forward looking sonar and video imagery. Initially, SLAM methods are 
used to localise a vehicle relative to a structure. However, beyond this 
we wish to match observed features to those expected based on a known 
geometry and associated semantic description. The objective is to first 
identify where the known geometry is incorrect, and subsequently 
consider building semantic descriptions (ontologies) of unknown objects. 
The semantic descriptions are then used as the basis for planning or 
plan repair to meet mission goals.

2.Detection and diagnosis of failure in task execution based on 
available sensor data and on the state of action execution in adaptive 
controllers and skill learning modules. Simple actions, such as move or 
hover, output from a mission planner will in general succeed at 
execution. However, more complex actions such as grasping and turning a 
valve or cleaning with a water jet may fail. The robot must detect this 
failure based on available information, where possible diagnose the 
cause, and then replan a further attempt. Key technology developments 
are required for these detection and diagnosis phases.

3.Optimising information exchange services between collaborating AUVs 
engaged in a joint mapping exercise using low bandwidth and intermittent 
acoustic communication. Vehicles should share mapping and other mission 
information as they acoustically and optically survey the seabed, 
automatically detecting objects of interest. Data exchange takes place 
within a service oriented architecture. Methods are required to ensure 
only timely information is exchanged and relayed appropriately, bearing 
in mind mission goals and the context of the data.

Applications are sought from interested individuals with MSc or 1st/2.1 
honours degree (or equivalent) in computer science, signal processing or 
robotics, and with practical aptitudes/interests in real autonomous 
underwater vehicles and sensors. Field trials in Scotland and Europe are 
involved. Successful candidates will join an existing team of 
experienced researchers.

The positions are of three years duration, starting immediately, with 
all fees covered and an annual stipend of up to £15k.

Contact:  Professor David Lane FRSE.  D.M.Lane at hw.ac.uk

David M. Lane, Francesco Maurelli, Tom Larkworthy, Darwin Caldwell, 
Joaquim Salvi, Maria Fox, Kostas Kyriakopoulos
"PANDORA: Persistent Autonomy through Learning, Adaptation, Observation 
and Re-planning" Proceedings of IFAC NGCUV'12

C.C. Sotzing, D.M.Lane “Improving the Co-ordination Efficiency of 
Limited Communication Multi-AUV Operations Using a Multi- Agent 
Architecture” Journal of Field Robotics Vol 27 No 4 July 2010 pp412-429

K. Hamilton, D.M. Lane, K Brown, N. Taylor “An Integrated Diagnostic 
Architecture for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles” Journal of Field 
Robotics. Vol. 24, No 6, pp 497-526 (2007)

I. Tena Ruiz, S. de Raucourt, Y. Petillot and D. M. Lane “Concurrent 
Mapping and Localisation Using Side-Scan Sonar”  IEEE Journal Oceanic 
Engineering, Vol. 29 (2): 442-456 (2004,)

More information about the robotics-worldwide mailing list