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Team KAIST Makes Its Presence Felt in the Self-Driving Tech Industry
Team KAIST finishes 4th at the inaugural CES Autonomous Racing Competition Team KAIST led by Professor Hyunchul Shim and Unmanned Systems Research Group (USRG) placed fourth in an autonomous race car competition in Las Vegas last week, making its presence felt in the self-driving automotive tech industry. Team KAIST, beat its first competitor, Auburn University, with speeds of up to 131 mph at the Autonomous Challenge at CES held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. However, the team failed to advance to the final round when it lost to PoliMOVE, comprised of the Polytechnic University of Milan and the University of Alabama, the final winner of the $150,000 USD race. A total of eight teams competed in the self-driving race. The race was conducted as a single elimination tournament consisting of multiple rounds of matches. Two cars took turns playing the role of defender and attacker, and each car attempted to outpace the other until one of them was unable to complete the mission. Each team designed the algorithm to control its racecar, the Dallara-built AV-21, which can reach a speed of up to 173 mph, and make it safely drive around the track at high speeds without crashing into the other. The event is the CES version of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, a competition that took place for the first time in October last year to encourage university students from around the world to develop complicated software for autonomous driving and advance relevant technologies. Team KAIST placed 4th at the Indy Autonomous Challenge, which qualified it to participate in this race. “The technical level of the CES race is much higher than last October’s and we had a very tough race. We advanced to the semifinals for two consecutive races. I think our autonomous vehicle technology is proving itself to the world,” said Professor Shim. Professor Shim’s research group has been working on the development of autonomous aerial and ground vehicles for the past 12 years. A self-driving car developed by the lab was certified by the South Korean government to run on public roads. The vehicle the team used cost more than 1 million USD to build. Many of the other teams had to repair their vehicle more than once due to accidents and had to spend a lot on repairs. “We are the only one who did not have any accidents, and this is a testament to our technological prowess,” said Professor Shim. He said the financial funding to purchase pricy parts and equipment for the racecar is always a challenge given the very tight research budget and absence of corporate sponsorships. However, Professor Shim and his research group plan to participate in the next race in September and in the 2023 CES race. “I think we need more systemic and proactive research and support systems to earn better results but there is nothing better than the group of passionate students who are taking part in this project with us,” Shim added.
'Flying Drones for Rescue'
(Video Credit: ⓒNASA JPL) < Team USRG and Professor Shim (second from the right) > Having recently won the AI R&D Grand Challenge Competition in Korea, Team USRG (Unmanned System Research Group) led by Professor Hyunchul Shim from the School of Electrical Engineering is all geared up to take on their next challenges: the ‘Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Subterranean Challenge (DARPA SubT Challenge)’ and ‘Lockheed Martin’s AlphaPilot Challenge’ next month. Team USRG won the obstacle course race in the ‘2019 AI R&D Grand Challenge Competition’ on July 12. They managed to successfully dominate the challenging category of ‘control intelligence.’ Having to complete the obstacle course race solely using AI systems without any connection to the internet made it difficult for most of the eight participating teams to pass the third section of the race, and only Team USRG passed the long pipeline course during their attempt in the main event. They also demonstrated, after the main event, that their drone can navigate all of the checkpoints including landing on the “H” mark using deep learning. Their drone flew through polls and pipes, and escaped from windows and mazes against strong winds, amid cheers and groans from the crowd gathered at the Korea Exhibition Center (KINTEX) in Goyang, Korea. The team was awarded three million KRW in prize money, and received a research grant worth six hundred million KRW from the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT). “Being ranked first in the race for which we were never given a chance for a test flight means a lot to our team. Considering that we had no information on the exact size of the course in advance, this is a startling result,” said Professor Shim. “We will carry out further research with this funding, and compete once again with the improved AI and drone technology in the 2020 competition,” he added. The AI R&D Grand Challenge Competition, which was first started in 2017, has been designed to promote AI research and development and expand its application to addressing high-risk technical challenges with significant socio-economic impact. This year’s competition presented participants with a task where they had to develop AI software technology for drones to navigate themselves autonomously during complex disaster relief operations such as aid delivery. Each team participated in one of the four tracks of the competition, and their drones were evaluated based on the criteria for each track. The divisions were broken up into intelligent context-awareness, intelligent character recognition, auditory intelligence, and control intelligence. Team USRG’s technological prowess has been already well acclaimed among international peer groups. Teamed up with NASA JPL, Caltech, and MIT, they will compete in the subterranean mission during the ‘DARPA SubT Challenge’. Team CoSTAR, as its name stands for, is working together to build ‘Collaborative SubTerranean Autonomous Resilient Robots.’ Professor Shim emphasized the role KAIST plays in Team CoSTAR as a leader in drone technology. “I think when our drone technology will be added to our peers’ AI and robotics, Team CoSTAR will bring out unsurpassable synergy in completing the subterrestrial and planetary applications. I would like to follow the footprint of Hubo, the winning champion of the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge and even extend it to subterranean exploration,” he said. These next generation autonomous subsurface explorers are now all optimizing the physical AI robot systems developed by Team CoSTAR. They will test their systems in more realistic field environments August 15 through 22 in Pittsburgh, USA. They have already received funding from DARPA for participating. Team CoSTAR will compete in three consecutive yearly events starting this year, and the last event, planned for 2021, will put the team to the final test with courses that incorporate diverse challenges from all three events. Two million USD will be awarded to the winner after the final event, with additional prizes of up to 200,000 USD for self-funded teams. Team USRG also ranked third in the recent Hyundai Motor Company’s ‘Autonomous Vehicle Competition’ and another challenge is on the horizon: Lockheed Martin’s ‘AlphaPilot Challenge’. In this event, the teams will be flying their drones through a series of racing gates, trying to beat the best human pilot. The challenge is hosted by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest military contractor and the maker of the famed F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters, with the goal of stimulating the development of autonomous drones. Team USRG was selected from out of more than 400 teams from around the world and is preparing for a series of races this fall, beginning from the end of August. Professor Shim said, “It is not easy to perform in a series of competitions in just a few months, but my students are smart, hardworking, and highly motivated. These events indeed demand a lot, but they really challenge the researchers to come up with technologies that work in the real world. This is the way robotics really should be.” (END)
Aerospace Engineering Students Win the Minister's Award
On November 11, 2016, students from KAIST’s Aerospace Engineering Department won the Minister’s Award of Trade, Industry and Energy of Korea at the 14th Research Paper Competition hosted by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The award came with a cash prize of USD 1,200 as well as opportunities to visit international airshows held abroad. The KAIST students' paper introduced a novel design concept for "a virtual-fighter-pilot system for unmanned combat aerial vehicles to enable them to engage in mass aerial combat." This was one of the two highest honors given to contestants. A group of students from Korea Aerospace University received the other grand prize from the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of Korea. The KAIST team consisted of two doctoral students, Hee-Min Shin and Jae-Hyun Lee, and one Master’s student, Hyun-Gi Kim. Their advisor, Professor “David” Hyunchul Shim, received the Special Achievement Award for his contribution to the paper. KAI’s competition was established in 2003 to spur academic interest and research in aerospace engineering. Over the past 14 years, contestants have submitted 376 papers, and KAI has published 88 papers. KAI has positioned itself as the host of one of the most prestigious research paper competitions held in Korea in the area of aerospace engineering. The Korean Society for Aeronautical and Space Sciences, the Korea Aerospace Industries Association, and the Korea Civil Aviation Development Association also sponsored the competition, with the Ministries of Trade, Industry and Energy and of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Professor Shim said, “This represents a great honor for our students. In recent years, research in unmanned aerial systems has increased tremendously throughout the world, and I hope KAIST will continue to inspire and innovate research in this field.” Pictured from left to right are Hee-Min Shin, Jae-Hyun Lee, and Hyun-Gi Kim. Pictured from right to left are Professor Hyunchul Shim, Hyun-Gi Kim, Hee-Min Shin, and Vice President Sung-Sup Chang of Korea Aerospace Industries.
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