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Motion Planning in Autonomous Robots


College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Prof W Holderbaum , Dr Mark Prince Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Birmingham United Kingdom Applied Mathematics Electrical Engineering

About the Project

Applications are invited for a three year Postgraduate studentship, funded by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, to be undertaken within the Mechanical Engineering  Research Group at Aston University. The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on Robotics; Energy Efficient, Control Theory; Mathematics, Hamiltonian Systems.

The position is available to start in either July 2021, October 2021, January 2022 or April 2022, subject to negotiation 

 

Background to the Project

 

Autonomous vehicles are seeing greater application in industrial and commercial settings, ranging from autonomous guided vehicles in smart factories to aerial drone surveying or delivery systems. As levels of automation increase so too will the requirements for and expectations of these systems to operate robustly and efficiently. Vital to this is their ability to adapt to changes in their environments. If aerial drones could autonomously navigate prevailing wind currents like boats following ocean currents, and could evade obstacles without compromising energy consumption by flying against the wind, this could alleviate some effects of current battery technology limitations.

The project will focus on the theoretical and experimental study of highly manoeuvrable and underactuated Underwater Autonomous Vehicles with emphasis on advanced motion control. This includes collision avoidance methods, formation control, target tracking as well as path following, tracking, and manoeuvring. The motion planning problem of an AUV has received much attention in recent years, as a result of a growing industry in underwater vehicles for deep sea exploration, ship inspection for maintenance on ship hulls, and the regular inspection of offshore wind turbine foundations. For an underwater vehicle to succeed it must be able to control its own motion while minimizing the amount of fuel required to perform its task using global optimal controls as well as use geometric techniques to stabilize its motion while minimizing fuel usage.

Hamiltonian systems and Lie group geometry are natural mathematical tools in this setting. This enables one to plan large manoeuvres using an optimal controller Affine control systems defined on finite dimensional Lie groups form an important class of nonholonomic control system that provide a mathematically rich setting for studying autonomous systems (underwater vehicles, wheeled mobile robots, aircraft, helicopters, and spacecraft). This research encompasses theoretical and new developments in the area of motion control of autonomous vehicles, with an emphasis on global motion planning using mathematical equations to describe the kinematics of the system and the Maximum principle of optimal control to derive the equations of motion for the autonomous vehicles.  For systems defined on Lie groups these equations can be expressed in a coordinate free manner and therefore analysis of these equations are global. The global analysis then comprises of the following:

·      Trajectory-tracking and path-following of autonomous vehicles.

·      Identify globally defined equilibrium solutions. This avoids the use of complicated numerical techniques to identify periodic/bounded equilibria.

·      Stability of equilibria.

This research will see the application of these powerful mathematical tools to the formulation of advanced adaptive motion control strategies and their demonstration using autonomous robotic systems.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) in Mathematics or Physics subjects. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of Hamiltonian Mechanics, Group Theory, Topology, and Geometry.

Contact information

For formal enquiries about this project contact Professor William Holderbaum by email at or Dr Mark Prince at

Submitting an application

 

Details of how to submit your application, and the necessary supporting documents can be found here

The application must be accompanied by a “research proposal” statement. An original proposal is not required as the initial scope of the project has been defined, candidates should take this opportunity to detail how their knowledge and experience will benefit the project and should also be accompanied by a brief review of relevant research literature.

Please include the supervisor name, project title, and project reference in your Personal Statement.

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at


Funding Notes

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home fees rate. Home students will also receive a maintenance allowance of at least £15,285 (subject to eligibility). This studentship is only available to Home students.
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