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Skydio Autonomy: Research in Robust Visual Navigation & Real-Time 3D Reconstruction

February 12, 2021 - 12:00pm to 2:00pm

Abstract: Skydio is the leading US drone company and the world leader in autonomous flight. Our drones are used for everything from capturing amazing video, inspecting bridges, & tracking progress on construction sites. At the core of our products is a vision-based autonomy system with seven years of development at Skydio, drawing on decades of academic research. This system pushes the state of the art in deep learning, geometric computer vision, motion planning, and control with a focus on real-world robustness. Drones encounter extreme visual scenarios not typically encountered by cars, ground robots, or AR applications. They are commonly flown in scenes with few or no semantic priors and must deftly navigate thin objects, extreme lighting, camera artifacts, motion blur, textureless surfaces, vibrations, dirt, camera smudges, & fog. These challenges are daunting for classical vision because photometric signals are simply not consistent and for learning-based methods & there is no ground truth for direct supervision of deep networks. In this talk we'll take a detailed look at these issues and the algorithms we've developed to tackle them. We will also cover the new capabilities on top of our core navigation engine to autonomously map complex scenes and capture all surfaces, by performing real-time 3D reconstruction across multiple flights.

Biography: Adam is co-founder & CEO at Skydio. He has two decades of experience with small UAS, starting as a national champion R/C airplane aerobatics pilot. As a grad student at MIT, his research pioneered autonomous flight for drones, transferring much of what he learned as an R/C pilot into software that enables drones to fly themselves. Adam co-founded Google’s drone delivery project. He currently serves on the FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Olin College and an SM in Aero/Astro from MIT. He has co-authored numerous technical papers and patents, and was also recognized on MIT’s TR35 list for young innovators.

Hayk was the first engineering hire at Skydio & leads the autonomy team. He is an experienced roboticist who develops robust approaches to computer vision, deep learning, nonlinear optimization, & motion planning to bring intelligent robots into the mainstream. His team’s work in UAV visual localization, obstacle avoidance, and navigation of complex scenarios is at the core of every Skydio drone. He also has an interest in systems architecture and symbolic computation. His previous works include novel hexapedal robots, collaboration between robot arms, micro-robot factories, solar panel farms, and self-balancing motorcycles. Hayk is a graduate of Stanford University and Princeton University.

Robotics Today is a virtual robotics seminar series scheduled on Fridays at 3PM EST & are open to the public. This seminar is live captioned and streamed via Web and Twitter (@RoboticsSeminar), followed by an interactive discussion between the speaker and a panel with audience questions.

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Event Sponsor: 
Computer Science Department, School of Engineering
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