AST - Research/Thesis - Title

Research and Thesis Topics

Research / Thesis Topics

The NPS faculty is comprised of accomplished scholars and professionals, predominantly civilian and almost all with doctorates. About 10 percent of the faculty members are senior military officers who, along with students, infuse important operational and combat experience into the education and research programs.

Several Federal agencies and defense organizations, such as NASA, NRO, National Security Agency, as well as defense contractors, sponsor academic chair professorships which further strengthen the institution's relevance.

Below you will find information about some challenging projects within the area of autonomous systems NPS faculty is carrying out. Autonomous Systems Track students will be able to participate in them and contribute with their Master’s theses.


High-Fidelity Modeling and Control Algorithms Engineering for Unmanned Systems
Prof. Oleg Yakimenko (email)
The research opportunities cover a wide range of the issues related to high-fidelity modeling, simulation, testing, model identification, guidance, navigation and control algorithms design as applied to a single and multiple autonomous sensor platforms. These include traditional air, surface and underwater vehicles, missiles, and guided aerodynamic decelerator systems (parachutes and parafoils). The Mathworks’ MATLAB / Simulink development environment is used for computer simulations, hardware-in-the-loop experimentations, real-time code development, and post-experiment data analysis and animations.


Autonomous Localization, Planning, and Control of Mobile Robots
Prof. Xiaoping Yun (email)
This research project investigates design and implementation of localization, mapping, planning, and control algorithms for single and multiple ground-based mobile robots. Multiple sensory modules including infrared sensors, ultrasonic sensors, laser range finders, cameras, and inertial/magnetic sensors are considered for localization and obstacle avoidance. Special graphic simulation software and five Nomadic Robots are available for experimentation.


Robust Adaptive Control for Complex Systems and Flexible Structures
Prof. Roberto Cristi (email)
A variety of research topics in Robust Adaptive Control systems to control systems with uncertain dynamics. A particularly important issue is the control of systems with flexible appendages, which result in non-minimum phase systems with zeros on the imaginary axis. These systems are particularly challenging, especially in Model Reference Adaptive Control, which require stable pole zero cancellation for model matching.


Biologically-Inspired Vehicles
Prof. Richard Harkins (email)
The research emphasis is on biologically inspired mobility for surf-zone vehicles in collaboration with Case Western Reserve and Bristol Universities in Ohio and the UK respectively.


Situational Awareness for Surveillance and Interdiction Operations
Prof. Timothy Chung (email)
This research investigates effective deployment and employment of heterogeneous assets, both manned and unmanned, for conducting search, identification, and interception missions in an area of interest. Both broad area and tactical contexts are considered. Situational awareness of dynamic object locations and identities is represented by a probability model, which integrates imperfect observations and captures nondeterministic object motions. Optimization models guide the allocation of assets to best improve the operational picture by optimal choice of search routes and interception tasking. Incorporation of autonomous elements into these operations can enhance their overall effectiveness via decision support and/or analysis.


UAV Vulnerabilities and Limitations
Prof. Robert Bluth (email)
The research project focuses on different aspects of UAV vulnerability and limitations imposed by a variety of factors.


Self-Organizing Tactical Networking and Collaboration
Prof. Alex Bordetsky (email)
Investigation of various topics related to tactical networking with sensors and unmanned systems (UAS) as well collaboration between geographically distributed units with focus on high value target tracking and surveillance missions. Exploring technologies associated with networking and the human aspects of networked forms of organization, including network-controlled unmanned systems, various forms of multiplatform wireless networking, mesh networked tactical vehicles, deployable operations centers, collaborative technologies, situational awareness systems, multi-agent architectures, and management of sensor-unmanned vehicle-decision maker self-organizing environments. Adaptation of emerging and commercially available technologies to military requirements and investigation of new social networking/collaboration elements associated with the addition of such technologies to the battle space and maritime security operational scenarios.


Collaborative Control of Multiple UAVs
Prof. Isaac Kaminer (email)
Research concentrate on control algorithms design for unmanned air vehicles, modeling and simulation, and flight controls.


Energy Independent Intelligent Autonomy
Prof. Vlad Dobrokhodov (email)
The research concentrates on extending operational endurance of intelligent autonomous systems of all domains including aerial, surface, and underwater robots. The key enabling technology is a cooperative ability of robots to adapt their control strategies to the operational environment and harvest energy in various forms during the mission execution. Adaptation mechanism is built around several new technologies that include the energy-aware control algorithms that drive individual robots, the cooperative algorithms that enable efficient exploration of energy-rich environment, and planning of energy-efficient cooperative missions.


Spacecraft Research and Design
Prof. Brij Agrawal (email)
The research opportunities lie in several challenging areas, such as flexible spacecraft control, acquisition, tracking, and pointing; optical beam control; adaptive optics; beam jitter; adaptive control; control moment gyros control; and space systems design. 


Dynamics and Control of Multiple Unmanned Vehicles
Prof. Marcello Romano (email)
The current research efforts include (real-time) guidance, dynamics, control, and on-board-autonomy for autonomous proximity maneuvers of multiple vehicles.


Development of Small-Scale Autonomous Ground Vehicles
Prof. Mike Ross (email)
The research topics include optimal orbit transfer, attitude control design for agile spacecraft, spacecraft formation flying, motion planning and collision avoidance for unmanned ground vehicles, Mars exploration trajectory design, autonomous cooperative control of robotic manipulators, experimental system identification using motion capture technology, optimal control and adaptive optics. 


Design of Micro (Flapping-Wing) Aerial Vehicles
Prof. Kevin Jones (email)
Research deals with (flapping-wing) aerial vehicles aerodynamic design and systems integration.


Autonomous Underwater Vehicles GN&C Algorithms Design
Prof. Doug Horner (email)
Research is conducted into topics falling in the following broad areas: underwater navigation, control and communication; tactical decision aids; collaborative multi-vehicle operations; obstacle avoidance using forward look sonar; and common AUV mission description language.


Robot Mission Playback using Virtual Environments
Prof. Don Brutzman (email)
The NPS Autonomous Unmanned Vehicle Workbench supports physics-based modeling and visualization of autonomous vehicle behavior and sensors. Our “3 R’s” are Rehearsal, Run-time control and Replay for air, surface and underwater robots. Applying physics-based virtual environments supports control-algorithm development, control-constant testing, mission generation and rehearsal, and replay of completed missions in a benign laboratory environment. Import and export translation of mission plans, scripts and telemetry is accomplished using the Autonomous Vehicle Command Language. Generation of mission reports and X3D visualization using the Savage model library enables better understanding of robot capabilities and real-world results.


Sensor Networks for Surveillance and Detection of Suspicious Behavior
Prof. Neil Rowe (email)
Prof. Gurminder Singh (email)
This work investigates architectures for sensor networks and the kinds of processing necessary to detect and classify important behaviors. Recent work has focused on infrared, acoustic, and magnetic sensors, plus automated analysis of video when appropriate. This work is related to more general research conducted on the detection and planning of deception operations. The Computer Science Department also does considerable work on data mining, techniques of which are important with analysis of sensor data provided by various autonomous systems.