Observer-based force sensing using a surgical robot

Study level

Master of Philosophy


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Anjali Tumkur Jaiprakash
Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director, Centre for Biomedical Technologies
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Health

External supervisors

  • Dr. Alejandro Donaire, University of Newcastle


Performing surgery is a difficult task that pushes surgeons to their mental and physical limits. Automation has been able to successfully reduce the burden on human workers in other industries (e.g. manufacturing) and is expected to be able to do the same for surgeons.

Surgical robots are different from most industrial robots as they must be made in a way that makes them able to safely interact with a patient during surgery, which means that the typical methods of automation cannot be applied. An important part of being able to interact with a patient safely is being able to detect when the robot has made contact with the robot (called force sensing).

This would typically be done using force sensors, however these are not applicable given the surgical context. Instead, we wish to use an observer to get an estimate of the external forces applied to the robot, and use this as a basis for performing autonomous control.

Research activities

The activities to be undertaken during this project will include (but are not limited to):

  • Program an open-source surgical robot (Raven-II)
  • Design and implement an observer for measuring the external forces on a robot
  • Perform basic force feedback control for a surgical robot
  • Develop skills in programming robots using C++, OpenCV and ROS


The outcomes of this work should be a ROS package that performs force sensing and allows for autonomous control of the RAVEN-II surgical robot using force feedback.

Skills and experience

The student should have some experience with:

  • C/C++ programming
  • ROS (preferred)
  • Dynamics and control



Contact the supervisor for more information.