Semi Autonomous Teleoperation System (SATS)

To develop a semi-autonomous teleoperation system that replaces tedious low level control operations with higher level tasks, allowing the operator to concentrate on the overall task to be conducted

Semi Autonomous Teleoperation

1 January 2017

Research Team

Mandayam A Srinivasan | Vijay Pawar

Technology Areas

A.I., Machine Learning and Deep Learning | Computer Vision | Control Systems | Human-Robot Interaction | Mechanism Design | Sensor Systems

Application Areas

Autonomous and Automation Systems 


Advanced robots should be used for difficult, dirty, dangerous and dull tasks, rather than humans. At present, the capabilities of these systems are hindered by their ability to control complex robotic functions such as performing a range of grasping tasks with tools that requires coordinating multiple end-effectors at the same time. To overcome these limitations, UCL will work with UK SMEs Shadow Robot Company, OC Robotics and Cambrian Intelligence to develop and test the feasibility of a novel semi-autonomous teleoperation system (SAT) to demonstrate new paradigm-shifting approaches. By leveraging unique testbed facilities at UCL HereEast for teleoperation technologies, the goal of the project is to replace tedious low level control operations with higher level tasks; allowing the operator to concentrate on the overall task to be conducted, rather than needing to micromanage a robot system through low-level operations like maintaining gripper contact with objects, or path planning through cluttered spaces. This system is expected to significantly ease the cognitive burden on the operator, making difficult tasks easier and all tasks more reliable and robust, whilst at the same time enabling operators to need less training in "using the machine", and speeding up task performance. Across industries using teleoperation in regular use, such as nuclear operations, fusion engineering, and subsea maintenance and inspection we expect semi-autonomous teleoperation technologies to produce a step-change in task productivity and remote decision making with concomitant economic impact.

The project builds on key UK activities in snake-arm robots, dexterous hands, teleoperation platforms, connectivity and research environments to deliver a step-change in capability. Within this project, the primary objective for the UCL team is to support the development, performance testing, analysis and dissemination of results of the proposed demonstrator systems. Leveraging a UCL EPSRC capital award >£2.4M in "Robotic Teleoperation for Multiple Scales: Enabling Exploration, Manipulation and Assembly Tasks in New Worlds Beyond Human Capabilities" (EP/K005030/1), we will provide the SME partners access to relevant robotic equipment and teleoperation platforms to develop a series of SAT systems. We will also exploit our existing background research to define suitable benchmarks to assist the measurement of end-user and technical performance of the system. These activities will include:

1) Providing space to mock-up different testing environments for demonstration
2) Help define suitable benchmarking frameworks to analyse the technical feasibility of the developed SAT systems such as stability, transparency and robustness measures
3) Work with SME partners to establish end user requirements and optimise developed demonstrator to potential first customer needs
4) Give access to UCL's existing industrial collaboration network to help broker follow on investment
5) Enhance international dissemination activities by presenting usability and performance results at leading events such as ICRA and IROS, in addition to industry focused forums

For UCL, this project will provide essential knowledge to help develop future sensors, actuators and components for creating the next generation of robotic technologies.

Planned Impact

Continued technological revolutions in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) is set to drive UK productivity into the future. Current UCL examples of the diverse economic, academic and societal impact include autonomous additive manufacture of buildings in-situ using distributed robots (EP/N018494/1); helping to reduce construction time, material and transport costs, improve worker safety and environmental impact. Within domains such as aerospace, our collaborations with Airbus and the AMRC (Innovate UK/57459-256136) will develop step changing technologies in both volume and individualised agile manufacture where each part can be a one-off and tracked throughout its product lifecycle. Within agriculture, working with the Rothamsted Research will develop robotic systems that use machine learning to adapt to changing environmental conditions and grow plants with limited use of pesticides, making production more environmentally friendly. Altogether, these outputs align with the Government's 'Manufacturing the Future' and EPSRC's objectives to for a 'Productive, Resilient and Healthy nation'.

Build upon existing connected initiatives, this project will generate ambitious and achievable impact. Industrial impact will be delivered through UCL's network of industrial partners and potential first customers of teleoperation technologies: Airbus, Reinshaw, Ultimaker, Skanska, Dyson, Arup, Burohappold, BBC, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Cullum Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Siemens, Philips, High-Value Manufacturing (HVM) and Digital Catapults, High Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Institute (HSSMI), GKN, and Intuitive Surgical Inc. We will also exploit membership on external networks such as the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, and Innovate UK's HVM Network. Academic impact will leverage the high-profile of each lead applicant ensuring dissemination of scientific knowledge through conferences, workshops, journals, exhibitions and demonstrator projects. Utilising the space afforded at UCL HereEast, public activities will benefit from capacity to host 2000 people at any one time to showcase community and high impact events. These activities will also be supported by established relationships with media outlets including the BBC, The Guardian, TimeOut and Wired Magazine. Regular interaction with schools and a dedicated YouTube channel will be used to inform, inspire and educate the wider public about the potential of future manufacturing technologies.

Planned initiatives to support Industrial, Academic and Societal impact include:
1) Real-world industrial impact: Regular meetings with network of industrial members. Includes scoping exercises, technology roadmap workshops and calls for feasibility studies. We will also extend existing Industrial Advisory Board to have a clear role in the project's governance. Boosting the visibility of underpinning technologies through new testing facilities at UCL HereEast will also aid industrial translation
2) Clear IP & legal frameworks: Work with UCL Business (UCLB) to create a clear framework to accelerate innovation
3) Supporting the academic community: Target for publication at major conferences, organised sessions and workshops such as IROS, ICRA, TAROS, SIGCHI, and industry tradeshows to involve the wider community
4) Bridging the gap to local communities: Commitment to yearly showcase and enterprise initiatives at UCL HereEast with local practices to address fragmentation and understand the non-standard demands on. Examples include the Bartlett Summer Show and planned Exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018. Past exhibits include demonstrations during the Science Museum Lates to help disseminate results to a wider audience
5) Enhancing national capability: Provide case studies of UCL's capabilities that combine design with high end RAS research that fills a gap in provision and serves a variety of engineering demands