Aerial robots

We're trying to make the most of robots that fly. We're studying a range of challenges, from the fundamentals of giving robots the intelligence to fly well, to their integration and exploitation for novel applications.


Future aerial robots have to deal more intelligently with uncertainty. For example, flying in a city exposes you to unpredictable, turbulent air flow, which is particularly troublesome for very small aircraft like Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs). If you're flying indoors to survey a damaged building, say, you have to deal with unexpected obstacles. In both scenarios, you've probably lost your GPS reception, so the aircraft needs to track its position and surroundings using its own on-board sensors. And, of course, all the computers and sensors have to be lightweight so they fit on the aircraft.


To tackle these challenges, we bring to bear a range of technologies:

  • Control systems, including robust and fault tolerant control
  • Motion planning, trajectory optimization and their inclusion in predictive control
  • Flight dynamics modelling and simulation
  • Bio-inspired approaches from the study of bird flight
  • Computer vision, especially embedded systems, SLAM and intelligent exploitation of sensors
  • Systems integration, bringing all these things together to deliver a useful capability


We collaborate with a range of companies and researchers to investigate novel uses for aerial robots. Examples include:

  • Tracing of radiation

This video shows the work of the RISER project led by Blue Bear Systems. The demonstration included the implementation of Bristol's visual SLAM algorithms on board Blue Bear's UAV.

  • Environmental measurements
  • Biological sensing


Aerial Robots Projects

Theme Leader

Aerial robots Team

  • Arthur Richards
  • Colin Greatwood
  • Tom Richardson
  • Shane Windsor
  • Laurie Bose
  • Andrew Calway
  • Walterio Mayol

Page last updated 27 April 2016