Beckman Fellow 2014-15

Soon-Jo Chung

Aerospace Engineering

Control and Motion-Planning Algorithms for Robotic Falcons to Prevent Airport Bird Strikes

Bird and other wildlife strikes on aircraft endanger passengers and cost $1.2 billion annually worldwide in damage to civil and military aviation. Now, imagine a future with aerial robots that can fly like falcons, perch on airport fences, and effectively scare birds away from airfields. Professor Chung’s long-term goal is to realize that future by establishing a new aerial robotic system and enabling technologies derived from the key control and sensing mechanisms that underlie natural flyers, thereby providing highly maneuverable aerial robotic platforms.

During his Center appointment Professor Chung aims to develop bird-like flapping robots that can be deployed in swarms to fend off “antagonists.” The project builds on his previous work on the control of flapping-wing aircraft using coupled limit cycles, and on the dynamics and control of flexible, articulated-wing aircraft. He will also explore new strategies for herding, applying tools in control theory, and real-time optimization.

Society as a whole stands to benefit from robotic birds that can effectively prevent bird strikes. Articulated-winged flapping aerial robots equipped with sensors could also allow access to areas that humans cannot reach (e.g., partially collapsed mines) and make revolutionary advances in the monitoring and recovery of critical infrastructures such as nuclear reactors, power grids, bridges, and borders.

The transformative nature of the research will contribute broadly in robot locomotion and biomimetic control as well as in distributed control theory that concerns many degrees of freedom (e.g., boundary control for flexible robotic arms). The research will also derive a mathematical tool that can test various biological hypotheses in animal and human movements and in motor disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.