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An Autonomy Stack for Aerial Vehicles
Sanjiv Singh - CEO, Near Earth Autonomy; Consulting Professor, CMU
2121 JMP
Friday, February 21, 2020, 2:00-3:00 pm Calendar
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Recent advances in batteries, motors and sensors allow consideration of tasks such as mapping,
exploration, inspection, and transport-- previously only the domain of ground vehicles—to be now
conducted by aerial vehicles. While we have been able to automate flight scripted to stay clear of the
environment for some time, operation in complex and unmapped environments is new. We might draw
inspiration from the avian world to enable navigation from one point to another, but there is a question
of how to tie these elements into what we really want these machines to do-- map, explore, and team.
This is especially hard given the complexity in control and the constraints on computing and sensing.
In this talk, I will discuss how we might organize familiar capabilities in perception and motion planning
to enable safe flight at high speeds in complex 3D environments. Spoiler Alert: we succeed by violating
sacrosanct norms of filtering, without needing to resort to Monte Carlo methods. I will provide
examples of implementations on aircraft ranging in scale from submeter drones to 10 meters (full-scale

Dr. Sanjiv Singh is an innovator, educator, and entrepreneur. He is currently a Consulting Professor at
the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University and the CEO of Near Earth Autonomy, a start-up that
develops autonomy for next-generation aircraft that will inspect infrastructure, deliver cargo, and
transport people.    

Dr. Singh started his career in 1985, working on the first autonomous ground vehicles to operate
outdoors.  Since then, he has led research and development efforts with applications in aviation,
agriculture, mining, and construction. In 2010 he led a team that demonstrated the first autonomous
full-scale helicopter capable of take-off, landing zone evaluation, and safe descent.  In 2011 he led the
autonomy effort for Transformer, DARPA's flying car program.  From 2012-2017, he led the perception
efforts for ONR’s AACUS program that demonstrated high-performance autonomous flight for three
classes of rotorcraft.  He currently leads several autonomous aerial cargo transport and inspection
projects. Dr. Singh obtained his Ph.D. in Robotics at Carnegie Mellon in 1995. He is the founding editor
of the Journal of Field Robotics, a TEDx speaker, and a co-founder of 4 companies.
This talk is organized by Tom Hurst