Robotics and Autonomous Systems

This multi-disciplinary team assembles world-leading expertise in robotics, vision, perception, cognition, human-interaction, artificial intelligence, micro and nano-systems, soft embodiment, bio-inspiration, neural computation, dependable systems and multi-core computing.

EDU-RAS: The Edinburgh Alliance in Robotics and Autonomous Systems

EDU-RAS website

Research Aims

"Robots acting independently of human control which can learn, adapt and take decisions will revolutionise our economy and society over the next 20 years". They will work for us, beside us, assist us and interact with us. It is estimated that by 2025 such advanced robotic and autonomous systems (RAS) could have a worldwide economic impact of $1.7 trillion to $4.5 trillion annually, with an emerging market value €15.5Billion.

INTERACTION: Environments : Multi-Robots : People : Self : Enablers

To realise such independent systems, there are five interconnected and interdisciplinary classes of scientific challenge that must be simultaneously addressed. They are characterised by the broad classes of INTERACTIONS between robots, people, environments and autonomous systems that must be safely and correctly designed and integrated into complete systems for different applications, scales and modalities.

INTERACTION themes and their key underpinning theoretical methods

Interaction Themes underpinning theories in Research of Robotics and Autonomous Systems
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Research Challenges


We equip students with a level of whole system opportunity not possible through a traditional PhD. Exemplars include:

  1. Environment Interactions: dealing with physical interactions between a robot and the environment. It includes studies of contact dynamics, switching control, compliant manipulation, sensor performance/processing, active sensing, and abstraction to world modelling and planning
  2. Multi-Robot Interactions: involving autonomous sensing and decision making for collaborative interactions between multiple, decentralised robotic systems with heterogeneous scales, mobility, processing capabilities and affordances to effectively collaborate to achieve complex tasks
  3. People Interactions: involving interactions between robots and people in smart spaces that transcend the physical and virtual divide by including factors such as human perception mechanisms, shared control in mixed human-robot teams, affective computing and natural multi-modal interfaces
  4. Self Interactions: dealing with robotic introspection for condition monitoring, prognostics and health management, and long term persistent autonomy including validation and verification
  5. Enablers: involving architectural system design, linked to novel embodiment using soft materials, micro and nano-sensors, and embedded multi-core computing
  6. Mechanisms of human-robot interaction for an application that involves contact dynamics and compliant manipulation (e.g. nuclear decommissioning)
  7. Multi-robot swarming techniques with novel (soft) embodiments and sensors, taking into account resulting thrust, energy, and communication constraints (e.g. coral reef repair)
  8. Condition monitoring and prognostics working with on-line adaptive planning and sensor interpretation using new embedded platforms and machine learning. These would realize new generations of fault-tolerant systems, able to adapt their behavior and their embodiment in new and previously unforeseen ways (e.g. marine renewable energy generators)

Potential Impact

Manufacturing: The UK has 25 robots per 10,000 employees in non-automotive sectors; Japan and Germany lead the world with 235 and 127. Increased uptake of RAS technologies will change this, increasing British industrial productivity.

Assistive Robotics: The market for medical robotics is growing around 50% annually worldwide. EDU-RAS has a strong track record in pioneering robots that can replace hands and limbs

Offshore Energy: UK Oil and Gas production satisfies 49% of the country's primary energy demand, worth £46billion and 440,000 jobs. EDU-RAS members have world leading expertise in autonomous marine robot technology and manipulation control.

Search & Rescue: The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant destruction and Deep Water Horizon oil spill have highlighted the need mapping and clean-up under difficult conditions. The nuclear decommissioning market is estimated to grow to over £1 trillion.

Defence: Autonomous systems with distributed processing and multiple-vehicle collaborations are increasingly important to enable multi-coalition forces to operate together.

Ageing Population: Demographics worldwide show increased life expectancy and declining birth rates. Robotic assistance will increase the labour productivity of the caregivers to the elderly, resulting in a healthier and happier older population, while also reducing their healthcare costs.

Environment Monitoring: Climate change and biodiversity loss are key national activities, governed by international agreements. Robotic systems are increasingly critical to cost effective routine mapping and monitoring for example in the oceans and seas.

Research Partners

EDU-RAS Research Partners include:

  • USC (Schaal, Sukhatme)
  • DLR (Alin Albu-Shaeffer)
  • ATR-Japan (Mitsuo Kawato)
  • RIKEN Brain Science Institute (Shunichi Amari)
  • HONDA Research Institute Germany (Bernhard Sendhoff)
  • KTH Stockholm (Danica Kragic)
  • TU Munich (Patrick van der Smagt)
  • U. Bielefeld (Helge Ritter)
  • TU Delft (Frans van der Helm)
  • Case Western and Hong Kong Univ (Wyatt Newman)
  • U. Tokyo (Nakamura, Inaba)
  • U. Stuttgart (Marc Toussaint)
  • CMU (Sidd Srinivasa, Chris Atkeson)
  • MBARI, Monterey (Rajan)
  • WHOI Cape Cod (Yoerger)
  • Memorial, St Johns (Bachmayer)
  • IFREMER Toulon (Rigaud)
  • U. Girona (Salvi)
  • IIT Genoa (Caldwell)
  • DFKI Bremen (Voegele)
  • SSA Pisa (Dario)
  • KCL (Fox and Long)
  • Sheffield (Prescott)
  • NOC (West)
  • SAMS (Inall)