Campus and Community

Técnico alumni awarded by the Portuguese Robotics Society

Pedro Lourenço and Pedro Trindade, authors of the best doctoral thesis and the best master's dissertation, respectively, were awarded by the Portuguese Robotics Society.

Pedro Lourenço, former PhD student, and Pedro Trindade, former MSc student, were recently awarded by the Portuguese Robotics Society (SPR), for their remarkable works on robotics in 2019. These awards are delivered annually by SPR and aims to stimulate innovation, rigour in research and disseminate scientific works in the various fields of robotics.

Pedro Lourenço’s PhD thesis “Globally Convergent Simultaneous Localization and Mapping: Design Techniques, Analysis, and Implementation” focuses on the development of an Algorithm of Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM).

“In a sense, this is the ‘chicken and egg’ problem in the context of robotics, because its objective is to navigate an autonomous vehicle in a new environment with no a priori info, in order to obtain a detailed map of the environment and maintain an accurate estimate of the location of the vehicle”, explains Pedro Lourenço.

Based on the work of his thesis advisors, the approach chosen explores the relative nature of vehicle motion sensors: “first we designed algorithms to build the map relying only on vehicle measurements, in order to ensure a global convergence, and then we developed a complementary algorithm to estimate the inertial trajectory”, stresses the author of the work.

According to Pedro Lourenço “the great advantage of global convergence, which is the main contribution of this work, is that it solves several SLAM problems, such as the initialisation problem or the kidnapped robot problem”. “The theoretical properties of the developed algorithms”, “the comprehensiveness of the theoretical strategy”, and “the experimental validation of all the work, with good practical results in different SLAM formulations”, have contributed to the success and recognition of the thesis.

Pedro Lourenço’s PhD thesis was unanimously approved by the jury with distinction and praise, which is something that he recalls “with great satisfaction and pride”. Approximately one year later, this award allowed him to relive the feeling and emotion of that moment. According to the alumnus, this recognition “proves the quality of the work carried out at ISR, in particular, at the Dynamical Systems and Ocean Robotics Laboratory (DSOR), where I worked”.

The two SPR award winners developed their work at the Institute for Systems and Robotics (ISR). “To have our work recognised by the Portuguese Robotics Society is very good”, says Pedro Trindade.

Pedro Trindade Master’s disseration “Distributed Formation Control of Double-Integrator Vehicles in the Presence of Unknown Constant Disturbances”, focuses on vehicle formation control. “More specifically, my work focused on the development of distributed algorithms for formation control”, says the alumnus. “By addressing this issue, I identified a relevant problem, which consists of controlling these formations when vehicles are affected by external disturbances”, he says. In this way, and in order to solve this problem, Pedro Trindade proposed a new algorithm that, unlike the existing solutions, is able to correct the effect of these disturbances. “

The Técnico alumnus carried out several experiments, with multi-engine vehicles, in order to validate the results. “The experiments carried out allowed to successfully validate the proposed algorithm and to demonstrate the benefits of the theoretical solutions to aerial robotics”, explains Pedro Trindade. “Although the experiments have been performed with four multi-engines, the results are scalable in any number of vehicles”, he adds. According to the Técnico alumnus, “the strong combination of theoretical results and experimental validation” have contributed to this distinction.