University of California, Riverside

Bourns College of Engineering

Mourikis Awarded NSF CAREER Award

Mourikis Awarded NSF CAREER Award

April 3, 2013

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Anastasios MourikisAssistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Anastasios Mourikis has been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award for his research project entitled "Resource-adaptive distributed estimation for teams of micro aerial vehicles."

Mourikis' five-year, $487,204 CAREER grant will focus on developing resource-adaptive distributed estimation algorithms for teams of micro aerial vehicles (MAVs). In 2011, he was awarded another NSF grant for $447,283 for his project, "Minimalistic estimators for navigation of miniature mobile platforms." His research focuses on autonomous vehicle localization, multi-robot systems, estimation in mobile sensor networks, vision-aided inertial navigation, simultaneous localization and mapping, and structure from motion.

Micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) are rapidly being adopted for a number of applications in national security, search-and-rescue operations, and scientific exploration. These small, inexpensive platforms are equipped with sensing, processing, and communication capabilities, which allow them to obtain and relay information from difficult-to-reach locations. Using the CAREER grant funding, Mourikis and his research team will focus on the opportunities offered by teams of MAVs.

In contrast to a single platform, a team of MAVs can more efficiently cover a larger area, and measure quantities of interest from spatially distributed locations. Such teams can be employed to detect and track people in a disaster site, model distributions of chemicals in the air, or build a map of the environment. These are all demanding estimation tasks, which need to be performed in real time, to be useful for planning and high-level decision-making.

Among the challenges faced when designing algorithms for these tasks, the most important one is the stringent resource limitations of MAVs. While in any system the resources are inevitably finite, cost, power, and weight considerations make the limitations particularly strict for MAVs. Even with state-of-the-art batteries, MAVs' flight time is today limited to only a few minutes. To maintain low weight and power consumption, MAVs are typically equipped with less capable processors and communication devices, and are limited in the types of sensors they can carry. This creates the need for methods that can guarantee the optimal utilization of the available resources, to attain the best possible estimation accuracy. Today, there is a lack of both estimation algorithms to meet this need, and of formal system-design tools for selecting the platforms' payload.

To address these challenges, Mourikis will develop new a new framework for the design of resource-adaptive distributed estimators, and for the MAV systems. The algorithms and design tools that will be developed in this effort will increase the capabilities of MAV teams, in domains ranging from scientific exploration to search-and-rescue operations. In turn, these systems will yield benefits that will directly impact our lives, from advancing the state of scientific understanding to saving humans in disaster sites.

Additionally, Mourikis will create opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students from UCR's diverse student body. Undergraduate students will be recruited to work on new MAV designs, and it is anticipated that such an involvement will increase the likelihood of them pursuing a graduate education. Moreover, as part of an integrated outreach program, Mourikis will leverage the nature of the proposed research – flying robots capture the imagination of young minds – to inspire and recruit underrepresented minority students to science and engineering.

Mourikis joined the Bourns College of Engineering in 2008. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Minnesota in 2008, and his Dipl. Eng. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Patras, Greece, in 2003. He won the Orange County Engineering Council's Outstanding Engineering Educator Award for 2013, was named a Hellman Fellow at UC Riverside for 2011-12, received the IEEE Transactions on Robotics Best Paper Award in 2009, and the UC Riverside Regents' Faculty Fellowship Award for 2009-10.

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is an organization-wide activity that offers the foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. Such activities are expected to build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

Anastasios Mourikis' faculty web page

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