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The Technion Autonomous Systems Program (TASP)

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What are Autonomous Systems?

Autonomous systems, also known as robotics, are intelligent machines capable of self-management and designed to operate independently in a dynamic environment with minimal or no remote human intervention.  They integrate mechanics, computers, sensors, and software, and include a wealth of other implementations that will drive progress in defense, medicine, and industry. Automated systems are soaring the skies, assessing underwater ecosystems, snaking through undetected tunnels, regulating traffic, and crossing rough terrain. They’re doing housework and even moving through our digestive systems!

What is the benefit of Autonomous Systems?

Autonomous systems can be cheaper, safer, faster, and more effective than human driven methods.  Through smart linking of sensors, systems can cooperate to save and improve lives, and easily perform complex tasks that are too difficult, dangerous, or monotonous for humans to do.

Autonomous Systems at the Technion

With an outstanding record of excellence in engineering and interdisciplinary research, the Technion is a world pioneer in the development of autonomous systems and “smart” devices, which react and respond to situations as they evolve.

Autonomous Systems Research Image 9To enhance their research, the Technion established the Technion Autonomous Systems Program (TASP), the only one of its kind in Israel, and the scientific home for dozens of advanced researchers from many faculties.  Headed by Distinguished Professor Daniel Weihs, TASP has world-class facilities for application-oriented research and development of complete autonomous systems, including hardware, software, operations principles, and manufacturing and maintenance considerations. Developments in micro- and nanotechnology are also critical to the development and practical application of autonomous systems.

 Listen to the ATS podcast featuring Prof. Weihs

The following five TASP centers are dedicated to different areas of specialization:

1. The Arlene and Arnold Goldstein Center for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Satellites
2. The Unmanned Ground and Marine Systems Center
3. The Autonomous Medical Systems Center
4. The Autonomous Agent Networks Center
5. The Household and Industrial Robotics Center

The Arlene and Arnold Goldstein Center for UAVs and Satellites

Autonomous Systems Research Image 7Driven by the need to identify and address constant terrorist threats, Israel has been a leader in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) technology for more than 30 years. At this center, researchers from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering are advancing the development of UAVs, some as small as the palm of your hand.  These UAVs can perform military or weather surveillance, and can react to changing tactical situations. They can also coordinate action with other members of their “swarm,” or team, which are deployed on the same mission or task. This is important because UAVs and satellites are the most natural application for advanced autonomy, as the distance at which they operate from the control centers is such that the time required for signals to travel from transmitter to receiver can be many seconds, and for interplanetary missions, even minutes. The new UAVs help protect and improve the quality of life around the globe, and make major contributions in:

  • Industrial and agricultural surveying
  • Law enforcement and border security
  • High-voltage line, oil and gas pipeline inspection
  • Monitoring and combating forest fires
  • Searching for survivors following disasters in diverse environments

 

It’s Happening at the Technion

Airborne Guardians: Studying the ability of dandelion seeds to float in the air for prolonged periods, a team led by Prof. Danny Weihs developed nano-sized parachutes made of electrospun nanofibers that change colors in the presence of airborne chemical toxins and other environmental contaminants.

Research at the Goldstein Center focuses on the following seven projects:


  • Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarms  dss
    Studying flocking patterns similar to those of migrating birds, researchers use multiple UAVs to develop a logical mechanism to improve communication between the UAVs on a particular mission, and to detect and optimize their patterns for patrolling, searching, and surveillance.
     The photo to the right shows a model of small satellites that fly simultaneously and can cooperate in space to carry out tasks such as sophisticated 3D imaging.

  • Lessons From Insects for the Design of Nano Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (NUAV)
    Technion scientists are studying the flight patterns of two varieties of beetle, each with a different wing span and body mass, to create NUAV that mimic the aerodynamic capabilities of flying insects from takeoff to landing.

  • Meeting Artificial-Intelligence & Motion Planning on UAVs
    Researchers are determining ways to give each vehicle in a UAV team its real-time specific assignment and tactical maneuvers so that they can cooperatively perform multiple tasks on multiple targets in a given mission.  The developed methods will ultimately be incorporated into software.

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Cooperative Decision and Control Under Severe Uncertainty
    Technion teams aim to improve upon multiple UAVs’ ability to maintain cooperative decision and control in conditions of extreme uncertainty, particularly when a team of UAVs is searching for stationary ground targets. The research is expected to lead to improved cooperative control strategies in general multi-vehicles, multi-targets scenarios.

  • Automatic Parameter Tuning For Inverse Problems, With Application to Automatic Visual Systems
    Researchers fuse advancements in signal and image processing towards developing new methods and achieving better results in visual sensing for autonomous systems.  The new procedure will maximize the efficiency of autonomous systems in varying conditions.

  • Autonomous Vision-Controlled Micro Rotorcraft
    Scientists are designing a vision-based navigation system for autonomous vehicles based on computer vision. Already armed with traditional telecommunication software, the new navigation system allows autonomous vehicles seamless continuation of an assignment in the event of a communication malfunction.

  • Planning the Motion of an Autonomous Helicopter in a Dynamic Environment
    Technion experts are developing a logical process to maximize the operating capabilities of autonomous helicopters as they carry out their missions in uncertain and often changing situations, overcoming their own limitations.

 

The Goldstein Center also houses a database and library of the open literature on unmanned aerial vehicles, which will serve both the Center’s researchers, Technion students and staff, as well as the Israeli Defense Forces, and others. Learn more about the Goldstein Center.

You can also watch a video on satellite formation flying.

It's Happening at the Technion

Autonomous Systems Research Image 3 Unmanned Ground and Marine Systems Center: Grounded in Safety
Israel is a leader in unmanned vehicles such as bulldozers deployed in dangerous areas to survey ground conditions, detect mines, and move potentially hazardous objects. Popular all-terrain and off-road vehicles have advanced capabilities for use in transportation, construction, agriculture, and environmental protection. Many of these unmanned vehicles have been developed at the Technion, and researchers continue to raise the level of autonomy to enable further civilian and security applications. See an All-Terrain Vehicle in operation

Tele_Operated_ VehicleUnmanned ground vehicles are designed to adapt to their ever-changing environment. Whether climbing walls or pipes, overcoming natural obstacles like trees and hills, navigating bodies of water, or scaling ravines, unmanned ground vehicles depend upon maps, aerial images and proper communications systems to make correct decisions at all times. The ground vehicles often mimic the agility of their living counterparts.

(The photo above and to the right is a tele-operated vehicle for mine detection.)

It’s Happening at the Technion

No Ordinary Snake in the Grass
Dr. Alon Wolf’s bio-inspired snake robots have the ability to propel themselves by rolling or moving segment by segment in an inchworm-like fashion. They can even swim to maneuver themselves into places that other machines or humans cannot enter, and can be used in minimally invasive surgical procedures.  They are especially crucial to search and rescue operations. 

Dr. Wolf founded the Biorobotics and Biomechanics Lab in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.  To learn more click here.

a spider robot photo

(To the left, a spider robot developed at the Technion moves through underground cavities, pipes and tunnels, searching for survivors and carrying out control and maintenance operations in dangerous structures such as nuclear reactors.)

Smooth Sailing
Unmanned robotic marine and submarine systems are essential to search and rescue operations underwater.  They also can be deployed to help protect water quality and natural underwater resources like minerals and ecosystems.  Like their aboveground counterparts, unmanned marine systems, also known as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), perform surveillance, and because they can remain underwater for weeks or months, are often used in chemical and biological oceanography research all without endangering humans.  AUVs can assess the condition of cables, defend against mines, and perform other maritime operations.

Learn more about the Unmanned Ground and Marine Center

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Autonomous Medical Systems Center

Autonomous systems are bringing about fundamental changes in health care. New technologies have enabled the development of tiny instruments that can be inserted in the body and either be guided by physicians or move on their own. Some of these instruments are able to reach areas of the body that were previously inaccessible using traditional tools such as endoscopes. Development of tiny medical robots means that diagnosis and treatment can take place using far smaller incisions, resulting in easier and quicker recovery.  Specialists at remote locations may be able to perform procedures using robotic assistants to perform simple tasks, such as handling surgical tools and sanitizing equipment, particularly when human assistance is limited, or unavailable and expensive. This will enable round-the-clock observation and rapid reaction to crisis and long-term medical issues.

Autonomous Systems Research ImageOpen Wide and Say, “See You Later!”
Technion graduate Gavriel Iddan of Given Imaging Company, Ltd., developed a pill-sized, ingestible camera used around the world, which navigates patients’ digestive systems as they carry out their daily routines. Particularly useful in remote locations, the “pill” provides physicians with a detailed computer image of the digestive tract.

An Inner Body Experience:
Dr. Alex Leshansky, Prof. Joseph Avron, and Dr. Oded Kenneth developed a model of a miniature robot capable of self-propulsion inside a viscous liquid, which utilizes the high degree of friction to move efficiently.  This has possible applications in medical nanotechnology, i.e. micro-robots “swimming” in the blood or another bodily fluid.

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Autonomous Agent Networks Center

The whole is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts. Autonomous systems are not necessarily individual physical objects; they can be networks of virtual individual units interacting to produce a combined action that is much more complex than each individual requirement or capability. Applications of such systems appear in air traffic control and power grid control.

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The Household and Industrial Robotics Center

With their vast potential, autonomous robots being developed at the Technion assist humans in complex tasks, and in situations that are too difficult, dangerous or monotonous. These include operating factories and machinery, excavating mines, or exploring nuclear plants, running traffic systems, or managing air-traffic control, and even housework!  Autonomous robots will be of particular use to the elderly and physically challenged.

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