ECE Department Seminar

Safe Robot Autonomy in Unknown Environments

Yiannis Kantaros
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Computer and Information Science
University of Pennsylvania

Friday, March 12, 2021
10:00 am  11:00 am
Zoom Meeting Link:
https://gmu.zoom.us/j/94379307420


Abstract: Recent advances in machine learning & AI, computer vision, and control theory offer a tremendous opportunity to deploy autonomous robot systems to uncharted environments to accomplish complex missions. Such tasks are particularly challenging as they require the robots to operate in environments with unknown structure, degraded environmental conditions, severe communication and sensing constraints, and expansive areas of operation.

With the goal of ultimately designing safe, robust and autonomous robotic systems that can operate in these conditions, in the first part of this talk, I will present a novel autonomy control loop that embraces learning-based perception, area mapping, and a novel planning method that allows teams of robots to safely accomplish complex missions in unknown but continuously learned environments. Particularly, the proposed method generates reactive control actions that adapt to the environmental map that is continuously learned using learning-based perception systems. Theoretical and experimental results supporting the proposed method will be presented.

Although deep learning for perception has now become one the main sensing modalities in autonomous robots, adversarial attacks to neural networks have exposed the brittleness of learning-based perception components. Motivated by this, in the second part of the talk, I will present a novel defense method that can detect whether input images to perception systems are clean or they have been manipulated adversarially (e.g., by placing adversarial stickers on traffic signs). Experiments on real-world data will be presented showing that the proposed method outperforms state-of-the-art methods in terms of scalability and detection performance.

Bio: Yiannis Kantaros received the Diploma in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2012 from the University of Patras, Patras, Greece. He also received the M.Sc. and the Ph.D.  degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University, Durham, NC, in 2017 and 2018, respectively. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on distributed control, machine learning and formal methods with applications to distributed robotics. He received the Best Student Paper Award at the 2nd IEEE Global Conference on Signal and Information Processing in 2014 and the 2017-18 Outstanding Dissertation Research Award from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Duke University, Durham, NC.