Final spaces: Masterclass in Swarm, Soft and Aerial Robotics

There are a few remaining spaces to fill at our Masterclass event. Applications will be accepted until Monday 27 March 2023, 10:00 a.m. BST | APPLY NOW

Masterclass details

Organised by the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TAS) Node in Functionality on behalf of the UKRI TAS Programme, the Masterclass in Swarm, Soft and Aerial Robotics will provide developers, operators, end users and researchers with an opportunity for hands-on experience with a range of autonomous and robotic technologies that can be deployed in the logistics, manufacturing and infrastructure industries.

Participants will work with university researchers to try out and explore the capabilities of the latest technologies in swarm robotics, soft robotics and aerial robotics (drones) via an interactive ‘teaching and doing’ format.

There will also be the opportunity to explore future avenues for the use of these technologies in the context of your own work, with the TAS Node sponsoring a number of follow-on summer student research projects after the event.


The masterclass will be held in-person on Wednesday 19 April 2023 at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, an internationally recognised Centre of Excellence in Robotics run in partnership between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE).

Invitation to apply

This event is free to attend with limited spaces, which will be allocated following short applications. We invite applications from members of industry, academic research and other interested parties. Applicants must provide information about their areas of interest and any initial ideas or applications they would like to explore during the masterclass.

Apply to attend: Masterclass in Swarm, Soft and Aerial Robotics (extended deadline: 27 March 2023 10:00 a.m. BST)


Applications will be reviewed by the Organising Committee. Selection of final participants will be based on the fit of their interests to the technology areas, as well as the potential for future use and development of these technologies aligned with these interests.

Selected participants will be notified of their place at the masterclass by the end of March 2023 and will be required to confirm attendance to secure their space.

We recognise the value of diversity and the contribution that every individual can make. We will support selected applicants to mitigate any barriers to their participation.


Masterclass in Swarm, Soft and Aerial Robotics: Future technologies for logistics, manufacturing and smart infrastructure

Wednesday 19 April 2023
10:00 Arrival & registration
10:15 Introductory talks
11:00 Demos of robotic technologies
12:00 Lunch break
13:00 Parallel Workshops: 1.Soft Robotics 2.Swarm Robotics 3.Aerial Robotics
15:00 Discussion: Ways forward – Future work & collaboration
15:30 Networking with refreshments
16:00 End

Organising Committee

From the University of Bristol’s TAS Functionality Node:

  • Shane Windsor
  • Sabine Hauert
  • Jonathan Rossiter
  • Katie Drury

Related links

Prize-winning presentation on regulatory frameworks for future nanomedicines

Matimba Swana presenting her PhD research at GFBR 2022

PhD student, Matimba Swana, was awarded best Pecha Kucha presentation prize at the Global Forum on Bioethics in Research (GFBR 2022) after successfully summarising her entire PhD project in 5 minutes!

Matimba’s PhD focusses on how to build regulations for nanoswarms for future nanomedicine clinical trials in the UK, Europe and US. The research aims to consider the regulatory requirements in advance of the technology being ready for in-human testing.

Cancer nanomedicines can be used as drug carriers that can target tumours more effectively with anti-cancer agents, whilst leaving healthy body tissues untouched. The technology will use swarm behaviour design to improve performance, while avoiding side effects, culminating in an intelligent drug delivery system.

Matimba’s work studies how the classification of nanoswarm technologies as drug delivery systems will influence the regulatory requirements set in each country of use. Consideration of this categorisation alongside the guiding AI principles and ethical concerns will ensure an effective regulatory framework is developed ready for in-human drug testing.

This work was presented as part of the GFBR 2022 conference programme, organised by the World Health Organization, Wellcome and South African Medical Research Council. The event focussed on the topic of ethics of AI in global health research, bringing together ethicists, policy-makers, researchers, clinicians, computer scientists and healthcare workers from across the world to discuss how traditional research ethics regulatory frameworks have responded to the rapid advances in AI technology. ‘Trustworthiness’ featured as a key consideration in the conversation.

Matimba’s presentation was one of ten ‘Pecha Kucha‘ presentations held during the event. This rapid story-telling format is often favoured at academic conferences to give early career researchers an opportunity to spotlight their research widely to delegates before a networking or poster session.

Well done to Matimba on a successful presentation and award!

Find out more

You can read more about Matimba’s PhD work and sign up as a volunteer to talk about ethics and regulations on our Swarm Study page.

Call for Participation: The First International Symposium on Trustworthy Autonomous Systems 2023 (TAS ‘23)

The First International Symposium on Trustworthy Autonomous Systems 2023 (TAS ‘23) | 11-12 July 2023 | Edinburgh, UK

Call for participation | Submissions

UKRI TAS Hub LogoThe UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems (TAS) Hub has invited submissions on novel and creative multidisciplinary research projects focused on trustworthy autonomous systems and their responsible development, for the First International Symposium on Trustworthy Autonomous Systems 2023 (TAS ‘23).

The TAS ’23 symposium will include a networking event for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and travel grants will be available for ECRs.

Full-paper submissions and poster abstracts that take a multidisciplinary approach to address the challenges of designing, building, and deploying Trustworthy Autonomous Systems are invited. Contributions should consider social, legal, ethical, and technical issues and their impacts on individuals, society, and the economy.

Important dates

  • Paper submissions due: *Extended to 8 March 2023*
  • Poster submissions due: 15 March 2023
  • Notifications: May 2023 (TBC)
  • Camera ready due: May 2023 (TBC)
  • TAS ’23 Symposium: 11–12 July 2023

More information

To read the call for participation and submissions information in full, visit


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!

Robot Hackathon

In June this year the universities of York, Manchester and Sheffield hosted a hackathon – a competition designed to collaboratively solve a problem in a particular field. The competing teams were a mix of undergraduates, postgraduates and post-doctoral researchers. The goal of the competition was to produce some code that would allow a single operator to control a group of 5 robots. The TAS functionality node was represented at the event by Dr Sabine Hauert and Dr James Wilson.

Over the three days attendees heard from an expert panel discussing key challenges around swarm robotics, which included Dr Hauert, and helped develop solutions for remotely operating robot swarms, using Pi-puck and MONA robots.  On the final day teams made presentations, with prizes for the best solutions.

The competition involved the robots moving around a small arena and gathering in locations (generated virtually) to score points. The locations themselves were labelled from 1-5, which was the amount of robots you needed gathered there in order to gain points. Most of the devised solutions involved control over a single agent with others following along autonomously, though some groups put together fully autonomous solutions. Some groups were even able to run code on swarms remotely at other universities which was fun!

Thanks to the universities, organisers, hosts and speakers for a brilliant time.



Autonomous vehicle testing using game engines

We’re excited to announce the recent publication by some members of our team, Professor Kerstin Eder and Dr Greg Chance of the Trustworthy Systems Laboratory (, of research into the determinism of game engines used for simulation-based autonomous vehicle verification. These simulations are useful in developing control systems and test environments for the vehicles; but only if they behave deterministically, and therefore yield reliable and repeatable results. Unfortunately, this isn’t a characteristic of game engines and they often produce different outcomes for the same initial conditions. The paper, published in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, presents the causes and effects of this non-deterministic behaviour, and sets forth a case study showing the shortcomings of a particular simulator, and a methodology to assess and minimize simulation precision. To read the paper please go here: On Determinism of Game Engines Used for Simulation-Based Autonomous Vehicle Verification 

Participants wanted for SWARM study

Would you like to help with research on the regulation of what future AI-driven nanomedicines should look like? If so, we are looking for volunteers to discuss ethical and regulatory issues of using AI driven cancer therapies with swarm behaviour through a series of interviews.

The research is part of the SWARM study – Small robots With collective behaviour as AI-driven cancer therapies; building Regulations for future nanoMedicines.

We are looking for:

  • Oncology healthcare professionals
  • Cancer patients
  • Regulatory or policymakers in drug delivery/oncology
  • Nanomedicine researcher or developers

Volunteers must be over the age of 18 years old to take part. We would love to hear from you. You can find out more about the study on our SWARM study webpage or by contacting Matimba Swana at

If you would like to take part please complete this Expression of Interest Form.

Participants wanted for ethics study

Would you like to help in some research on the ethics of robots? If so, we are looking for volunteers to discuss ethical issues around robots and autonomous systems that are capable of learning from their surroundings and changing what they do.

The research is part of the ARET: Adaptable Robots, Ethics, and Trust study. In old English ‘aret’ means ‘to ‘entrust’, and ‘arête’ is a term used by Ancient Greek philosophers to indicate moral virtue or excellence.

If you are aged 18 or over, we would love to hear from you. You do not need to have any previous knowledge of autonomous systems to participate as we will show you images and videos to introduce you to the technologies.

You can find out more about the study on our ARET: Adaptable Robots, Ethics, and Trust study webpage or by contacting Arianna Manzini at

If you would like to take part please complete this volunteer form.

Powering emergency food distribution using swarms: Results from the DOTS competition are in

Find out how robots called DOTS (Distributed Organisation and Transport Systems) were used to help simulate the distribution of emergency food parcels in a competition run jointly by the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Toshiba Bristol Research and Innovation Laboratory and the South Gloucestershire Council’s UMBRELLA project.

Increases in the number of emergency food parcels distributed by food banks have accelerated over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in those going to children. Robot swarms could help streamline the distribution of these emergency food parcels, while freeing up time for volunteers and workers to interface with the users and provide human contact.

Read about how participants in the competition brainstormed and engineered solutions to tackle the challenge and watch their simulations on the RoboHub website.