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'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)
Robotic Herding of a Flock of Birds Using Drones
A joint team from KAIST, Caltech, and Imperial College London, presents a drone with a new algorithm to shepherd birds safely away from airports Researchers made a new algorithm for enabling a single robotic unmanned aerial vehicle to herd a flock of birds away from a designated airspace. This novel approach allows a single autonomous quadrotor drone to herd an entire flock of birds away without breaking their formation. Professor David Hyunchul Shim at KAIST in collaboration with Professor Soon-Jo Chung of Caltech and Professor Aditya Paranjape of Imperial College London investigated the problem of diverting a flock of birds away from a prescribed area, such as an airport, using a robotic UVA. A novel boundary control strategy called the m-waypoint algorithm was introduced for enabling a single pursuer UAV to safely herd the flock without fragmenting it. The team developed the herding algorithm on the basis of macroscopic properties of the flocking model and the response of the flock. They tested their robotic autonomous drone by successfully shepherding an entire flock of birds out of a designated airspace near KAIST’s campus in Daejeon, South Korea. This study is published in IEEE Transactions on Robotics. “It is quite interesting, and even awe-inspiring, to monitor how birds react to threats and collectively behave against threatening objects through the flock. We made careful observations of flock dynamics and interactions between flocks and the pursuer. This allowed us to create a new herding algorithm for ideal flight paths for incoming drones to move the flock away from a protected airspace,” said Professor Shim, who leads the Unmanned Systems Research Group at KAIST. Bird strikes can threaten the safety of airplanes and their passengers. Korean civil aircraft suffered more than 1,000 bird strikes between 2011 and 2016. In the US, 142,000 bird strikes destroyed 62 civilian airplanes, injured 279 people, and killed 25 between 1990 and 2013. In the UK in 2016, there were 1,835 confirmed bird strikes, about eight for every 10,000 flights. Bird and other wildlife collisions with aircraft cause well over 1.2 billion USD in damages to the aviation industry worldwide annually. In the worst case, Canadian geese knocked out both engines of a US Airway jet in January 2009. The flight had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. Airports and researchers have continued to reduce the risk of bird strikes through a variety of methods. They scare birds away using predators such as falcons or loud noises from small cannons or guns. Some airports try to prevent birds from coming by ridding the surrounding areas of crops that birds eat and hide in. However, birds are smart. “I was amazed with the birds’ capability to interact with flying objects. We thought that only birds of prey have a strong sense of maneuvering with the prey. But our observation of hundreds of migratory birds such as egrets and loons led us to reach the hypothesis that they all have similar levels of maneuvering with the flying objects. It will be very interesting to collaborate with ornithologists to study further with birds’ behaviors with aerial objects,” said Professor Shim. “Airports are trying to transform into smart airports. This algorithm will help improve safety for the aviation industry. In addition, this will also help control avian influenza that plagues farms nationwide every year,” he stressed. For this study, two drones were deployed. One drone performed various types of maneuvers around the flocks as a pursuer of herding drone, while a surveillance drone hovered at a high altitude with a camera pointing down for recording the trajectories of the pursuer drone and the birds. During the experiments on egrets, the birds made frequent visits to a hunting area nearby and a large number of egrets were found to return to their nests at sunset. During the time, the team attempted to fly the herding drone in various directions with respect to the flock. The drone approached the flock from the side. When the birds noticed the drone, they diverted from their original paths and flew at a 45˚ angle to their right. When the birds noticed the drone while it was still far away, they adjusted their paths horizontally and made smaller changes in the vertical direction. In the second round of the experiment on loons, the drone flew almost parallel to the flight path of a flock of birds, starting from an initial position located just off the nominal flight path. The birds had a nominal flight speed that was considerably higher than that of the drone so the interaction took place over a relatively short period of time. Professor Shim said, “I think we just completed the first step of the research. For the next step, more systems will be developed and integrated for bird detection, ranging, and automatic deployment of drones.” “Professor Chung at Caltech is a KAIST graduate. And his first student was Professor Paranjape who now teaches at Imperial. It is pretty interesting that this research was made by a KAIST faculty member, an alumnus, and his student on three different continents,” he said. (Figure A. Case 1: drone approaches the herd with sufficient distance to induce horizontal deviation) (Figure B. Case 2: drone approaches the herd abruptly to cause vertical deviation)
Scholarship in Memory of Professor Shin Endowed by His Family
Professor Joong-Hoon Shin of the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology was touted as a genius young scientist who would take the lead in nanoscience technology. After earning degrees from Harvard and the Caltech, he was appointed at KAIST at age 27. He was the youngest professor ever appointed in Korea. Professor Shin’s outstanding research in the field of semiconductor nano-optics led him to be named as the ‘Scientist of the Year’ for three consecutive years from 2004 by the most prestigious scientist and technology organizations including the Korean Academy Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation of Korea, and the Korean government. However, a fatal car accident last September on the way home from a seminar in Gangwon Province took his life and a promising scholar’s research was left unfinished. He was 47 years old. Mrs. Young-Eun Hong, the widow of the late Professor Shin, made a 100 million KRW gift to KAIST to establish the ‘Joong-Hoon Shin Scholarship’ on April 7. The scholarship will provide financial assistance to outstanding students of physics and nanoscience. At the donation ceremony attended by President Sung-Chul Shin, Professor Shin’s colleagues and students, and family members, Mrs. Hong said, “My family would like to help young students achieve their dreams on behalf of my husband. I hope students will remember my husband’s passion and dedication toward his studies for a long time. He was a very hard worker.” Working at KAIST, Professor Shin made significant achievements in field of semiconductor nano-optics, specializing in silicon photonics and silicon nanocrystal structures. In particular, his research team gained attention reproducing the structure of ‘Morpho butterfly’ wings, which produce the same colors from various angles, using external light as a light source without extra power. Their research led to the creation of original technology dubbed the biomimetics reflective display and was published in Nature in 2012. Professor Shin’s legacy still endures. In February, a research team under Professor Shin-Hyun Kim of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering includingthe late Professor Shin’s doctoral student Seung Yeol Lee, posthumously dedicated their research published on Advanced Materials to Professor Shin. ( click ) KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin, who is also a physicist, said “His passing is a great loss to the whole scientific and technology community, at home and abroad. But Joong-Hoon Shin scholarship will enable the growth and ensure the strength of nanoscience and its education at KAIST. We will uphold Professor Shin’s legacy by doing our best to make KAIST a world-leading university which can create global value.” Mrs. Hong said she will continue her husband’s academic legacy at his alma maters, Harvard and the Caltech, where he earned his BS in physics and his Ph.D. in applied physics respectively. She said she will start fundraising to establish the Joong-Hoon Shin Scholarship at Harvard and Caltech from July. (Mrs. Hong poses with President Sung-Chul Shin after donating 100 million KRW for establishing 'Joong-Hoon Shin Scholarship' in memory of her husband on April 7.)
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