CSE professor David Saldaña’s work has made drones in multi-robot systems smaller, more efficient

As a postdoctoral researcher, David Saldaña designed, built, and tested modular flying robots that could communicate with each other and autonomously self-assemble around an object to lift it up. Although the robots were transporting small items—a cup of coffee, for instance—they have the potential to accomplish more complex tasks, says Saldaña, who joined Lehigh’s computer science and engineering department as an assistant professor this fall. 

With more refinement, he says, modular drones could serve many purposes: some familiar (delivering packages), others, more futuristic (building massive structures, like bridges, based on swarms of modules). 

Saldaña’s recent work developing geometric algorithms and control strategies for multi-robot systems in the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania was featured in a recent article

“Autonomous control of a single robot is challenging,” Saldaña says. “Simple tasks, like moving from point A to point B, can be very complicated if you do it in a forest. So that’s for a single robot, but now when you have hundreds of robots, the factors to take into account grow exponentially and the swarm coordination becomes highly complex.”

In Spring 2020, the Rossin College’s computer science and engineering department will offer Introduction to Mobile Robotics. The course will give an overview of robot motion, sensing, localization, and navigation, including flying robots.

In the Penn Today article, Saldaña explains the purpose of his research to overcome environmental dangers using autonomous robots while improving coordination between the drones. His continuing work has applications in environmental monitoring, disaster response, aerial manipulation, and construction. 

Read the full story on Saldaña and his work here.  

Isabela Madrigal '20 is a student writer for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science.

David Saldaña (© Eric Sucar)

David Saldaña joined the computer science and engineering faculty at the Rossin College this fall following his work as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo: © Eric Sucar/Courtesy of Penn Engineering