World award for Skymaster

31 January 2014

Skymaster, an autopilot for unmanned aerial vehicles, has won a University of Sydney robotics researcher the 2014 international MathWorks Student Challenge.

Developed by Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies PhD Candidate, Daniel Wilson using MATLAB and Simulink software, Skymaster, has the ability to take complete control of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

"We were able to develop new algorithms to give Skymaster the ability to think for itself. It can carry out specified missions with complete autonomy," says Daniel.

These algorithms are central to autopilot capabilities and the development of these algorithms is highly iterative, explains Daniel.

The process generally involves simulation, conversion from graphical simulation to embedded code, then validation of the system and testing in the field," he says.

The biggest bottleneck in this process is the conversion to embedded code and the verification that this is equivalent to what was simulated.

Daniel explains his solution:"The use of Simulink for simulation greatly simplifies system development by hiding the low-level details behind a graphical interface and allowing automatic generation of the embedded code," he says.

This means that new algorithms can move from simulation to flight testing in a few mouse clicks. Not only does this significantly speed up development, but it also helps people with no embedded programming experience to implement their algorithms on the UAV.

Daniel 's undergraduate degree was BE Mechatronics (Space) at the University and he is currently a PhD candidate at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University, in the aerospace group.

"My research is concerned with the relative sensing and estimation that assists autonomous close-formation flight. My focus is on implementation in the field using small, manoeuvrable UAVs. Skymaster forms the foundation of the experimental work, not only for myself, but for others in the group as well," Daniel says.

Daniel's supervisor, Dr Ali Haydar Goktogan says students from around the world submitted videos to the Mathworks Simulink Design Challenge showcasing the use of Simulink in their work. Mathworks products are used widely internationally in engineering, science, mathematics and in the finance and technology sectors.

Media enquiries: Victoria Hollick, 9351 2579, 0401 711 361,

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