2023-05893 - PhD Position F/M Full-Body Design and Control of an Aerial
Manipulator for Advance Physical Interaction
Contract type : Fixed-term contract
Level of qualifications required : Graduate degree or equivalent
Fonction : PhD Position
About the research centre or Inria department
The Inria Rennes - Bretagne Atlantique Centre is one of Inria's eight centres
and has more than thirty research teams. The Inria Center is a major and
recognized player in the field of digital sciences. It is at the heart of a
rich R&D and innovation ecosystem: highly innovative PMEs, large industrial
groups, competitiveness clusters, research and higher education players,
laboratories of excellence, technological research institute, etc.
Hired by the Rainbow team at IRISA/Inria Rennes, France
Advised by: Paolo Robuffo Giordano and Marco Tognon (Rainbow team)
Aerial robots (commonly called “drones”) are nowadays extensively used to
see the environment in applications like agriculture, mapping, etc. But, if
aerial robots were also able to effectively manipulate the environment, the
application domains could be further extended toward new areas like contact-
based inspection, assembly and construction, and so on. The research community
has previously focused on the design and control of aerial manipulators 1.
This opened the door to new applications, e.g., contact-based inspection
2. However, current methodologies are still limited to very simple
interaction tasks, involving limited contact behaviors with static and rigid
surfaces (e.g., touching a flat wall with a stick attached to the robot) and
in very controlled environments.
So far, aerial manipulators have been treated as a combination of two
subsystems: the aerial vehicle and the robotic arm mounted onboard. Both
design and control methods for aerial manipulators also follow this separation
principle. However, this approach leads to poor results in terms of task
execution and robustness. Aggressive maneuvers, complex manipulation tasks,
and effective rejection of disturbances are not possible due to the missing
coordination between the two parts of the aerial manipulator.
In this PhD we want to go beyond the current approaches looking at aerial
manipulators as a whole system, both from the design and control perspectives.
This should allow obtaining more precise and robust aerial manipulators that
could be used in more complex task, e.g., in construction sites helping humans
for burden operations.
The work will start from the previous platform and full-body control method
presented in 3. From there, the PhD is expected to give contributions to
the following points:
Mechatronic Design : we believe that considering actuation
inaccuracies already at the design level can allows to conceive an aerial
manipulator that is intrinsically more robust. We will rely on the concept
of “state/input sensitivity” 4,5 to design a platform where the
actuation configuration minimizes the effect of their inaccuracy on the
overall force/torque generation. Such a design problem can be casted in an
optimization framework where additional criteria as the energy efficiency
and the manipulability can be considered. We will also investigate the use
of proper force/torque-controlled actuators for both thrusters and joints
to have high precision and robustness during physical interaction tasks.
Control : if previous methods controlled the aerial platform and the arm as separate systems, here we aim at a proper full-body controller where a task is accomplished exploiting at best all the robot's degrees of freedom, considering the limitations and properties of the robot dynamics, as well as its actuation limits. Previous attempts were always limited by the poor design which did not allow to properly control each actuator at the force/torque level 3. Thanks to the new design envisaged in this PhD, this will be finally possible and we will be able to properly design full-body controllers. Initially, we will use model-based methods. However, due to the complexity of the system, errors due to modelling errors are expected. We plan to tackle this problem in two ways, which will then be compared. The first one is to enhance first principles modelling with data-based modelling. The second one is to use model-free approaches based on reinforcement learning. One output of this project will then be the investigation and comparison of the performance and limitations of both approaches.
Experimental validation : the new platform and control methods will be validated and tested firstly on benchmark tasks, like following a trajectory in free flight, apply a certain force to a rigid wall, and sliding an end-effector along a surface. This will allow to properly assess the advancement with respect to the state of the art. However, we will also demonstrate the new system capabilities on complex tasks that are extremely challenging for current aerial manipulators, e.g., opening a door or physically interacting with humans. The tests experimental tests will be carried out in the robotic room and drone arena of the Rainbow team.
A. Ollero, M. Tognon, A. Suarez, D. J. Lee, and A. Franchi. “Past, present, and future of aerial robotic manipulators.'' IEEE Trans. on Robotics, 2021.
M. Tognon, Tello-Chavez, H. A., Gasparin, E., Sablé, Q., Bicego, D., Mallet, A., Lany, M., Santi, G., Revaz, B., Cortés, J., and Franchi, A., “A Truly-Redundant Aerial Manipulator System With Application to Push-and-Slide Inspection in Industrial Plants”, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 1846-1851, 2019.
G. Nava, Sablé, Q., Tognon, M., Pucci, D., and Franchi, A., “Direct Force Feedback Control and Online Multi-Task Optimization for Aerial Manipulators”, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 331-338, 2020.
P. Robuffo Giordano, Q. Delamare, A. Franchi. Trajectory Generation for Minimum Closed-Loop State Sensitivity. In IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation, ICRA'18, Pages 286-293, Brisbane, Australia, May 2018
P. Brault, Q. Delamare, P. Robuffo Giordano. Robust Trajectory Planning with Parametric Uncertainties. In IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation, ICRA'21, Pages 11095-11101, Xi'an, China, May 2021
M. Brunner, G. Rizzi, M. Studiger, R. Siegwart, and M. Tognon, “A Planning-and-Control Framework for Aerial Manipulation of Articulated Objects”, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 10689-1069, 2022.
K. Bodie, M. Tognon, R. Siegwart, “Dynamic End Effector Tracking with an Omnidirectional Parallel Aerial Manipulator”, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 8165-8172, 2021.
M.Sc. or Ph.D. degree in mechatronics, robotics, engineering, computer
science (or related fields)
Good experience in C/C++ , ROS, Matlab/Simulink, CAD
Good experience with numerical trajectory optimization tools for robotics
(e.g., use of CaSaDi, Acado, Autodiff, Crocoddyl, etc.)
Scientific curiosity, large autonomy and ability to work independently
Partial reimbursement of public transport costs
Possibility of teleworking (90 days per year) and flexible organization
of working hours
Partial payment of insurance costs
Monthly gross salary amounting to :
2051 euros for the first and second years and
2158 euros for the third year
Theme/Domain : Robotics and Smart environments
Instrumentation et expérimentation (BAP C)
Town/city : Rennes
Inria Center : Centre Inria de l'Université de Rennes
Starting date : 2023-09-01
Duration of contract : 3 years
Deadline to apply : 2023-05-15
Inria Team : RAINBOW
PhD Supervisor :
Tognon Marco / [email protected]
The keys to success
Ability to work independently
Inria is the French national research institute dedicated to digital science
and technology. It employs 2,600 people. Its 200 agile project teams,
generally run jointly with academic partners, include more than 3,500
scientists and engineers working to meet the challenges of digital technology,
often at the interface with other disciplines. The Institute also employs
numerous talents in over forty different professions. 900 research support
staff contribute to the preparation and development of scientific and
entrepreneurial projects that have a worldwide impact.
Instruction to apply
Please submit online : your resume, cover letter and letters of recommendation
For more information, please contact [email protected]
Defence Security :
This position is likely to be situated in a restricted area (ZRR), as
defined in Decree No. 2011-1425 relating to the protection of national
scientific and technical potential (PPST).Authorisation to enter an area is
granted by the director of the unit, following a favourable Ministerial
decision, as defined in the decree of 3 July 2012 relating to the PPST. An
unfavourable Ministerial decision in respect of a position situated in a ZRR
would result in the cancellation of the appointment.
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