Up, Up and Away

The HKUST Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) team soared to fresh heights when it collected the First Prize at the International Aerial Robotics Competition 2015 (Asia/Pacific Venue), held in Beijing.

The renowned competition challenges university student teams globally to advance the technical capabilities of autonomous flying machines. It was first held at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States in 1991 and is the longest running contest of its kind in the world. The event was brought to Asia in 2012 by the Chinese Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics, with American and Asia-Pacific venue contests now held simultaneously each year.

The mission facing the HKUST team of Electronic and Computer Engineering PhD and MPhil students and an alumnus was to design a single autonomous aerial robot to drive as many ground robots as possible across a boundary within a certain time span. In doing so, team members had to overcome three main challenges: navigating an unfamiliar environment without external negotiating aids or large stationary points of reference; autonomously avoiding moving obstacles; and interaction between aerial robots and moving targets.

Members also had the opportunity to meet up with students from other universities in the Asian region, gaining further insight into aerial robotics as well as making useful connections with others in the field (see also Ms & Mr Young Engineers). The HKUST team was led by Prof Shaojie Shen, Electronic and Computer Engineering.

HKUST is a global leader in UAV technology, and Autonomous Systems and Robotics is one of the University’s strategic areas for development. The multidisciplinary HKUST Robotics Institute was established in late 2015 to encourage University-wide engagement.