Science and Engineering

Robotics and autonomous systems

Overview

Robots and autonomous systems are changing the way we live, work and play. They’re used in industries like health, transport, manufacturing, agriculture, and even in energy and environmental sensing. Our work focuses on the development of technology that can be used to improve our understanding and management of the world around us, and that will benefit humanity.

Research

Our goal is to create robots that can operate in and interact with the world in the same complex ways as humans.

Our research has already led to the development of prototypes including:

  • flying robots for large-scale infrastructure monitoring
  • ground-based mobile robots for sustainable agricultural productivity
  • crop harvesting robots
  • on-water and underwater robots for environmental monitoring
  • autonomous robots for optimised underground mining operations
  • social and health-related applications for humanoid robots
  • robots to help surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery.

Facilities

Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision

Researchers from our discipline lead the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision, headquartered at QUT, which is creating a new generation of robots that can understand their environment using the sense of vision, a missing capability preventing robots from performing useful tasks in complex and changing environments.

Research Engineering Facility (REF)

The Research Engineering Facility (REF) provides specialist, cross-organisational research engineering services and is hosted within the Institute for Future Environments (IFE).

REF has a proud history of providing services for both manned and unmanned aircraft, and supports QUT’s core strengths in robotics and autonomous systems through design, engineering and operations of airborne, terrestrial and marine robots.

Medical robotics facilities

Our researchers collaborate on multidisciplinary research at QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI): a world-class facility dedicated to the prevention, intervention translation and technology to bridge the gap between research advances, health priorities and clinical practice.

Our researchers use QUT’s Medical Engineering Research Facility, located at the Prince Charles Hospital Campus in Brisbane.

Courses

Undergraduate

Our undergraduate engineering degrees offer a wide range of units dedicated to robotics and autonomous systems:

Online learning

We offer free open online courses (MOOCs) in robotics and robotic vision. These courses are open to everyone, and provide a platform for an introduction to robotics research.

The QUT Robot Academy is an online robotics education resource that offers you free access to undergraduate-level lessons, courses and masterclasses.

Projects

The Category 1 funded research projects we are currently leading are:

ARC Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision

Project leader
Professor Peter Corke
Dates
2014-2020
Project summary

Robots are vital to Australia's future prosperity in the face of high relative wages, low or decreasing productivity and impending labour shortages, however, the work and workplaces of our most important industries are unstructured and changeable, and current robots are challenged by their inability to quickly, safely and reliably "see" and "understand" what is around them.

Our research will create the fundamental science and technologies that will allow robots to "see" as we do, and overcome the last barrier to the ubiquitous deployment of robots into society for the benefit of all.

ARC Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision

Superhuman place recognition with a unified model of human visual processing and rodent spatial memory

Project leader
Professor Michael Milford
Dates
2014-2018
Project summary

Current robotic and personal navigation systems leave much to be desired; GPS only works in open outdoor areas, lasers are expensive and cameras are highly sensitive to changing environmental conditions. In contrast, nature has evolved superb navigation systems.

This project aims to solve the challenging problem of place recognition, a key component of navigation, by modelling the visual recognition skills of humans and the rodent spatial memory system.

This project looks to combine the best understood and most capable components of place recognition in nature to create a whole more capable than its parts, produce advances in robotic and personal navigation technology and lead to breakthroughs in understandings of the brain.

Human cues for robot navigation

Project leader
Professor Gordon Wyeth
Dates
2014-2016
Project summary

The world has many navigational cues for the benefit of humans: sign posts, maps and the wealth of information on the internet. Yet, to date, robotic navigation has made little use of this abundant symbolic information as a resource.

This project will develop a robot navigation system that can navigate using information beyond the robot's range sensors by incorporating knowledge gained by reading room labels, following human route directions or interpreting maps found on the web.

This project will demonstrate the robot's navigation ability by comparing its performance with a human as it learns to find its way around campus by asking for directions, reading signs and maps, and searching the internet for clues.

Interdisciplinary and inter-institution projects

Some of the projects we are contributing to with other disciplines and institutions are:

  • Revolutionising protection against air pollution, 2015-2017

Student topics

Are you looking to further your career by pursuing study at a higher and more detailed level?

We have over 30 PhD students undertaking research in a diverse range of topics, from robotic vision to bio-inspired robotics, to aerospace autonomy and medical robotics.

Read about our current research projects, contact the project leaders to find out more about their work and discuss potential honours, masters or PhD projects.

Contact

School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

  • Level 12, S Block, Room 1221
    Gardens Point
  • Postal address:
    School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
    GPO Box 2434
    Brisbane QLD 4001