Leonardo Drone Contest: the first competition starts

04 September 2020

The appointment is for September 18, in Turin. A unique opportunity for young innovative Ph.D. students, who will compete in the first competition of this challenge in the field of Artificial Intelligence applied to Unmanned Systems.

Conceived and developed by Leonardo, in collaboration with six Italian universities, to promote the development of Artificial Intelligence applied to Unmanned Systems, this competition is highly innovative in Italy and beyond. The goal is to encourage the creation of an «ecosystem» that involves and brings together the capabilities of large companies, universities, small and medium enterprises, and national spin-offs and start-ups.  

In particular, Leonardo is supporting six Ph.D. students (one per university) of the Politecnico of Turin and Milan and of the Universities of Bologna, Sant'Anna of Pisa, Roma Tor Vergata and Federico II of Naples. For three years, they will be engaged in the development of an autonomous drone driving system, sharing university and business resources and knowledge.

The Politecnico of Turin, represented by Ph.D. candidate Simone Godio, participates in the contest through Draft PoliTo, a multidisciplinary team whose goal is the development of autonomous navigation algorithms for a single drone, with sensor fusion and new receiving techniques, the elaboration and realization of an innovative navigation system through an interaction network among a limited number of autonomous drones and the extension of the interaction algorithms to the drone swarm creating an optimized communication network, and more autonomous navigation system.

Doctoral student Gabriele Roggi together with the team of the Politecnico of Milan, instead, aims to develop systematic methods and tools for the design of on-board autonomy functions and a localization algorithm focusing on motion planning and collision avoidance.

For Federico II of Naples, the PRISMA Lab team, represented by Ph.D. candidate Salvatore Marcellini, with the support of Dr. Jonathan Cacace, is working on software development, avionics and mechatronics design and prototype creation. Their task is to develop research on flying robots considering both the aspects of control and high-level reasoning and planning, integrating cross-disciplinary concepts.

Moreover, the University of Bologna, represented by Ph.D. candidate Lorenzo Gentilini, will work to acquire in-depth knowledge on UAV programming, autonomous navigation techniques, autonomous mapping, simultaneous navigation and mapping algorithms, non-linear system control and basics of artificial intelligence applications, such as neural networks.

And then there is Edwin Paúl Herrera Alarcón - the Ph.D. candidate at the Sant'Anna in Pisa - who was attracted not only by the technical aspects of the project but also by the opportunity to grasp an industrial point of view. The team faces the challenge of making a state-of-the-art drone that can map an unknown environment and recognize risks to establish a strategy to perform the mission without mistakes.

Finally, the Roma team Tor Vergata, made up of students, Ph.D. candidates and other researchers, specifically experts in Artificial Intelligence, automatic controls and robotics. The short-term goal of the team, represented by Ph.D.candidate Francesco Conversi, is to use a quadrotor based on commercial technologies to develop a flight controller, SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) and a new anti-collision and obstacle avoidance system.

Each year the students and their teams will confront each other in a scientific symposium and in a competition. The Leonardo Drone Contest was launched on November 12, 2019. On July 1, 2020 the first important, public event was held featuring an all-digital symposium focused on the technologies and drones, specifically on Artificial Intelligence applied to Unmanned Systems.

The July symposium was the first step of the contest which is now called to commence the first of three annual competitions with an ever-increasing level of complexity. The symposium and competition create a unique opportunity to interact with both the "Made in Leonardo" world of innovation and the academic world. During the symposium, all six universities, represented in particular by the Ph.D. students sponsored by Leonardo scholarships and the professors of the departments involved, introduced their teams and the technological developments achieved to date. The teams and their technologies will be seen and tested during the first competition to be held on September 18.

Today, the teams face their last few days to work and refine their strategy and then…"may the best team win"!

For more information on the Leonardo Drone Contest visit the dedicated section on the Leonardo website.