High speed reactive obstacle avoidance and aperture traversal using a monocular camera

September 12, 2017 @ 6:15 pm – 8:00 pm America/New York Timezone
U-Mass Lowell NERVE Center
1001 Pawtucket Blvd
Lowell, MA 01854

Robotics and Automation Society and co-sponsored by Robotics and Automation Society New Hampshire Chapter

Presented by Dr. N. Andrew Browning, Deputy Director of Research and Development at SSCI

Doors open: 6:15 P.M.
Presentation: 6:45 P.M.
Dinner: 8:00 P.M.

Meeting Location: UMass Lowell NERVE Center, 1001 Pawtucket Boulevard, Lowell, MA 01854

Flight in cluttered indoor and outdoor environments requires effective detection of obstacles and rapid trajectory updates to ensure successful avoidance. We present a low-computation, monocular-camera based solution that rapidly assesses collision risk in the environment through the computation of Expansion Rate, and fuses this with the range and bearing to a goal location (or object), in a Steering Field to steer around obstacles while flying towards the goal. The Steering Field provides instantaneous steering decisions based on the current collision risk in the environment, Expansion Rate provides an automatically-speed-scaled estimate of collision risk. Results from recent flight tests will be shown with flights at up to 20m/s around man-made and natural obstacles and through 5x5m apertures.

MEDIA – Flight Videos (YouTube Playlist): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLS01G8CWzRStocqEPMnYfG_NbpjrIXrDv


Dr. N. Andrew Browning, Deputy Director of Research and Development at SSCI

Dr. N. Andrew Browning obtained his PhD in Computational Neuroscience from Boston University with a thesis on how primates and humans process visual information for reactive navigation, the resulting neural model was built into a multi-layer convolutional neural network (called ViSTARS) and demonstrated, in simulation, to generate human-like trajectories in cluttered reactive navigation tasks. Following his PhD, applied post-doctoral research, and a brief stint as a Research Assistant Professor at BU, Dr. Browning started a research group at Scientific Systems Company Inc. (SSCI) to develop Active Perception and Cognitive Learning (APCL) systems as applied to autonomous robotic systems. The APCL lab at SSCI has developed into a global leader in the development of applied perception and autonomy solutions for small UAVs. Dr. Browning is now Deputy Director of Research and Development at SSCI with a broad remit across the areas of advanced controls, single vehicle and collaborative autonomy, visual perception, acoustic perception, and vision-aided GNC.


The New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center at the University of Massachusetts Lowell is a dedicated research, testing, and training facility. The mission of the NERVE Center is to improve the development of robotic systems by both academic researchers and corporations by facilitating evaluation throughout the design cycle.

The NERVE Center houses replicas of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Standard Test Methods for Robots, water test areas designed in collaboration with the Army, an indoor rain area, NERVE-specific apparatuses, and the ability to simulate a variety of operational scenarios and experiment set-ups. The indoor arenas allow for year-round testing of robot systems with water, sand, and other features difficult to maintain outdoors in New England. Nine thousand square feet is dedicated to test courses and apparatuses. Each course is outfitted with a video recording system to capture robot testing sessions throughout the entire facility. NERVE Center employees are available to aid with testing and adjust apparatus settings.

The center is conducting research to continue the development of standard methods for evaluating robots. For example, there are few validation methods that have been developed for fully autonomous robot systems, an area with a great deal of current research and development. Feedback on new metrics is solicited from NERVE Center members.

Pho 88
1270 Westford Street
Lowell, MA 01851

Have more questions? Want to share a drink with the speaker? Want to network with fellow engineers and professionals? Just want to chat about the current goings-on in Robotics, or technology in general? Join us for dinner, where you can talk about Robotics in a more casual setting!


This and other RAS meetings are open to the general public. For more information about the RAS Boston Chapter, contact Chapter Chair Sripati Sah at chair@robotics-boston.org or visit http://www.robotics-boston.org/.