Job opportunity: Systems Engineering Research Associate/Senior Research Associate in Trustworthy Autonomous Systems

Cutting-edge autonomous systems can change functionality during operation through autonomous learning and adaptation. This gives them enormous potential, including being able to operate autonomously in complex and dynamic real-world environments. However, the ability to evolve in functionality also poses significant challenges to current processes for specifying, designing, analysing, verifying, and validating these systems.

This position sets out to address this Systems Engineering challenge with a focus on ensuring that these adaptive systems are safe, reliable and demonstrably trustworthy. The research will involve working with a multidisciplinary team to develop new systems engineering approaches and apply them to specific case studies in swarm robotics, soft robotics and machine learning unmanned air vehicles.

Further information

For more details about the role and how to apply, visit the University of Bristol job site: Vacancy ref. ACAD106473

Closing date: 5 December 2022

 

Job opportunity: Research Associate/Senior Research Associate in Aerial Robotics

This exciting research position sets out to develop flight control systems for Uncrewed Air Vehicles (UAVs) based on machine learning. You will be developing reinforcement learning based flight control systems for micro quadcopters and hybrid flight control systems for morphing wing UAVs. You will then experimentally test and validate these using advanced free flight and wind tunnel testing facilities.

This position is part of our multidisciplinary UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Node in Functionality which explores how to develop trustworthy adaptive autonomous systems. The successful applicant will be part of a large multidisciplinary team of researchers from ethics, sociology, computer science and engineering working together to develop design-for-trustworthiness techniques for a wide range of autonomous systems, including swarm robotics, soft robots, and unmanned air vehicles. They will also be a part of the larger national £33 million UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems programme.

The position will be based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the largest centre for multidisciplinary research in the UK. This position will also involve close interaction with the Bio-inspired Flight Lab, and the Bristol Flight Lab at the University of Bristol.

Further information

For more details about the role and how to apply, visit the University of Bristol job site: Vacancy ref. ACAD106468

Closing date: 1 December 2022

Functionality research showcase at FUTURES 2022

Last week our Ethics and Regulation researchers participated in the FUTURES 2022 Schools Research Fair in the SS Great Britain’s dockyard in Bristol. They joined research teams from the Universities of Bristol and Bath each showing interactive exhibits aimed to excite young children about the wide range of research across the University’s portfolio.

At the TAS Functionality Node stand, children from local primary and secondary schools were asked to consider a number of questions, such as:

“Should there be a human driver present ready to take-over in an autonomous car?”
“Should online medical advice provided by AI inform users they are communicating with a non-human?”
“Should self-driving cars be as safe or safer than the average human driver?”

Ideas were collated into a word cloud (pictured) summarising the range of feelings participants expressed about trusting and regulating autonomous technologies.

Dr Arianna Manzini, Research Associate in Ethics of Autonomous Systems, who led the exhibition said:

“We are grateful to all the schools who participated. It was fantastic to see so many children engaging with our questions and sharing their views about the future of robotics!”

The Schools Research Fair was held as part of the FUTURES 2022 festival of discovery taking place at venues across the South West of the UK this Autumn. The overall ambition of this series of free events is to provide multiple opportunities for the public to find out about innovative, world-class research that universities are leading on across the region. The focus is on interactivity and fun, bringing research to life to inspire others to get involved or learn more.

Our participation in the event formed part of a series of outreach events planned for the whole TAS Functionality Node Programme. Follow us on Twitter @tas_function or via our Events listings on this site to be the first to hear about future events.

Wordcloud of feedback from participants
Word cloud generated by survey responses
Photo of the TAS Functionality Node exhibition at FUTURES 2022
Our exhibition stand at FUTURES 2022

Recycling materials in soft robotics

It’s important for all fields to consider their environmental impact, and robotics doesn’t currently have a rich history of research into sustainability. In this recent paper Professor Rossiter, Dr Partridge and Dr Manzini, from our TAS Functionality Node, demonstrate their research into reducing the waste for soft robotics.

The need for soft bodies and actuators in this field leads to the use of large amounts of silicon, rubber and other elastomers, which isn’t normally recycled. In the paper the authors present a non-chemical process to recycle and reuse these elastomeric materials, which, as well as decreasing the amount the harmful waste, has the extra benefits of minimising the amount of new material needed and lowering costs. The material from old and broken soft actuators was ground into granules ranging from 1mm in diameter to 3mm in diameter and used to create new soft actuators without loss of function. Characterisation tests showed that although some functionality reduced with the percentage of recycled material, the silicone composites exhibited very comparable elastic properties to the pristine silicone.

The authors propose that these materials could then form a pipeline where every time they’re recycled they’re used in lower and lower risk applications. This technique could also help other fields reduce their waste.

Watch this short video to see the research in action:

Access the full paper: ReRobot: Recycled Materials for Trustworthy Soft Robots

And please do leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

Trust Me, I’m a Robot!

Event postponement:

This event has been postponed due to a recent fire at the venue. We are working with We The Curious to identify a new date and will update this page when the new date is secured.


Would you trust a parcel-delivering drone? How do swarms of robots collaborate to complete a task? What scares you and excites you the most about living in a world of autonomous systems?

TAS-event-image

Join us for a fun event about robots and trust!

Where: The space above We The Curious museum, 1 Millennium Square, Anchor Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5DB

When: Postponed date TBC – watch this space!

Who: This event is open to anyone, but is most suitable for adults and children over 12. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied and supervised by a responsible adult.

What: You will take part in activities like flying drones, building your own robotic gripper, playing games about robot swarms and driverless cars, and more. You will have the opportunity to talk to Bristol University researchers who are developing these technologies and discuss the ethical and societal implications of robotics.

Organisers: This event is organised by the Trustworthy Autonomous System Node in Functionality project at the University of Bristol. This project is funded by UK Research and Innovation. The TAS project investigates how autonomous systems with ‘evolving functionality’, which can rapidly adapt to changes in the environment or in the systems themselves without a human controller, should be developed and deployed to be trustworthy.

COVID-19 measures: Please do not come to the event if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Please also do a lateral flow test before attending if you can, and wear a face covering at the event unless you are exempted.

Accessibility: Please let us know in advance if you have any access requirement. The event is wheelchair friendly. Some activities may not be suitable for deaf or hard-to-hear visitors and blind or partially sighted visitors. For more information about accessibility at We The Curious, please check the ‘Access for all’ webpage.

Contact: If you have any questions, please contact Dr Arianna Manzini by email.