Colloquium: Bringing UASs Closer to the Environment

March 1, 2019 - 11:15am to 12:15pm
Carrick Detweiler
University of Nebraska at Lincoln
3-180 Keller Hall
Junaed Sattar
Abstract: Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) are increasingly being used for everything from crop surveying to pipeline monitoring. They are significantly cheaper than the traditional manned airplane or helicopter approaches to obtaining aerial imagery and sensor data. The next generation of UASs, however, will do more than simply observe. In this talk, I will discuss recent advances we have made in developing algorithms and systems that enable UASs to safely and reliably interact with the environment and with sensors deployed in the environment. While the algorithms and systems I develop are applicable to a range of robot systems that operate in uncertain environments, my work is strongly motivated by challenges faced by my domain-science collaborators and how solving problems in field robotics can help advance their work. For instance, prescribed fire is a critical tool used to improve habitats, combat invasive species, and reduce fuels to prevent wildfires. Yet this activity can be extremely difficult and dangerous, especially when performing interior ignitions in difficult terrain. We have developed a UAS that can autonomously ignite prescribed fires. In this talk, I will discuss the history of this project and the challenges associated with flying near and igniting fires. I will also present results on how UASs can deploy and recharge environmental sensors deployed in remote and hard to access locations. By leveraging probabilistic bounds we can optimize charging of these sensors when little is known a-priori about their current charge. Finally, I will discuss automated software analysis techniques we are developing to detect and correct system errors to reduce risk and increase safety when using UASs to ignite prescribed burns.
Bio: Dr. Carrick Detweiler is the Susan J. Rosowski Associate Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He co-directs and co-founded the Nebraska Intelligent MoBile Unmanned Systems (NIMBUS) Lab at UNL and also co-founded the company Drone Amplified, which sells drone-based fire ignition systems. His research focuses on improving the robustness and safety of aerial robots and sensor systems operating in the wild. Carrick obtained his B.A. in 2004 from Middlebury College and his Ph.D. in 2010 from MIT CSAIL. He is a Faculty Fellow at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at UNL and received the 2016 College of Engineering Edgerton Innovation Award. He is currently leading NSF, USDA, and DoD projects focused on developing the systems and software to enable interactions of UAVs with water, fire, and crops.