ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
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Research: Systems & Control

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Controls researchers are developing underwater robots and robotic boats to monitor lakes, rivers, and coastal waters for biological and chemical agents.

Page 28 - Robot

Virginia Tech's small, low cost, fully field-deployable underwater robot is being used for testing multi-vehicle control, estimation, and adaptive sampling algorithms

The mobile, robotic biochemical sensors will support military and homeland security efforts, with potential additional applications in industrial and environmental monitoring.

The Virginia Tech researchers have teamed with the Center for Bioenvironmental Research (CBR) at Tulane and Xavier universities on the project.

The team is pushing existing technology to enable the biosensing platforms to cooperate as a group without human supervision and to autonomously navigate dynamic and unknown environments such as rivers and estuaries, according to ECE’s Dan Stilwell, the principal investigator for the project.

“Currently, autonomous marine vehicles are limited to operating with preprogrammed paths in static and open waters,” he explained. “They cannot operate in unknown or dynamic environments where they must make decisions during a mission without human supervision. Autonomous marine vehicles are also incapable of operating effectively in groups,” he said.

Page 28 - PeopleControls researchers are blending human behavior with techniques used in engineering systems to develop evacuation strategies for emergencies. ECE’s Pushkin Kachroo and Mahendra Singh of Engineering Science and Mechanics are developing an intelligent, automated system to guide large crowds of people from complex buildings during earthquake, fire, or bio-chemical hazards. Sensors, cameras, and speakers will be strategically placed to guide people away from hazards and to direct emergency workers to the trouble.

Page 29 - Morphing AirplaneDouglas Lindner is on a multidiscplinary team to develop optimization methods for morphing wings that consider structural, actuation, and changing aerodynamic loading issues simultaneously. Smart materials and technology are expected to help air vehicles configure themselves during flight. Shown at left is an artist’s rendering of NASA’s 21st Century Aerospace Vehicle, nicknamed the “Morphing Airplane.”