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The Air Force Institute of Technology
Robotics and Automation Applications Group

The AFIT Robotics and Automation Applications Group is a multidisciplinary group of faculty and students at the Air Force Institute of Technology, located at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, devoted to the development and application of robotic and telerobotic technologies to Air Force processes. The RAAG is jointly sponsored by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Table of Contents:

  1. AFIT RAAG Mission Statement
  2. Laboratory Facilities
  3. Current Research Efforts
  4. Robotics Education Program
  5. Admission and Scholarship Information
  6. RAAG Students
  7. RAAG Faculty
  8. Our Sponsor

Mission of the AFIT Robotics and Automation Applications Group

The Air Force is currently undergoing a significant reduction in force structure as are other components of the DOD. It is in the national interest to maintain current capabilities in the face of this downsizing. An accepted tenet to maintain these capabilities is the pursuit of technological advances that reduce personnel requirements and improve personnel efficiency. A primary vehicle to achieve this goal is the judicious insertion of automation into Air Force processes and systems. Since most tasks are unstructured and do not lend themselves to autonomous systems, the Air Force is aggressively pursuing human supervisory control of robotic systems, or teleoperation, as the practical, near-term automation solution. This approach is analogous to the efforts to provide for cockpit integration where the pilot directs the overall task, and the subsidiary tasks are automated.

Thus, the AFIT RAAG is pursuing research in telerobotic and autonomous applications to Air Force depot and flightline and other automation tasks. Some example application areas include: depot repair and manufacturing operations, munitions loading, aerial and ground refueling, space systems maintenance and repair, hazardous materiel handling, telesurgery, and mobile systems. Click here for current research efforts.

Laboratory Facilities

Two integrated robotic laboratory facilities are available to all students in robotics courses and thesis and dissertation research. These laboratories support research and education projects into the enabling technologies for the augmentation or replacement of logistics and operational functions performed by human beings with semi-autonomous or autonomous systems that perform sensing, cognitive, or motor functions. Robotics Lab A, supported by the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and located in Bldg. 640, Rm. 141, has a SARCOS Anthropomorphic Force-Reflecting Master-Slave system operating under VXWorks, a Utah/MIT four fingered dexterous hand with an EXOS hand goniometer, and a Shilling Hydra Unilateral Master/Slave manipulator system. Both The Utah/MIT hand and the Hydra are supported and controlled by a VME Bus Controller running the real-time operating system Chimera. An Optotrak position sensing system is available as well. Computational support is provided by a dedicated SPARCstation and a Silicon Graphics Indigo workstation for graphic simulation via the Deneb IGRIP simulation software package.

Robotics Lab B, supported by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering located in Bldg. 642, Rm. 2000, has a PUMA-560 with six axis wrist force sensor system. The computational support and controller for this system is identical with the systems in Lab A as well as with the Armstrong Laboratory and AFMC Robotics and Automation Center at Kelly AFB allowing immediate transfer and implementation of all software Air Force wide. An Adept 550 tabletop SCARA robot used for assembly and force control research and class projects operates on and Adept MV-19 VME controller. Researchers also have access to all the general purpose computer systems in the Signal and Information Processing Laboratory.

Current Research Efforts

Object Resolved Teleoperations

Unified Teleoperations Architecture Project (UTAP)

Intelligent Prosthetics

Hydraulic System Dynamics

Robotics Education Program

The objective of the interdisciplinary Robotics Systems elective sequence is to prepare students for research and development activities in the analysis and design of future Air Force robotic systems.

The Robotic Systems Sequence is offered jointly by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. A mix of electrical and mechanical engineering courses provide the interdisciplinary knowledge required in this specialty. Basic courses in dynamics, control theory, and linear systems are pre/corequisites for the sequence.

The Air Force Academic Specialty Code (ASC) 4IHD is available for Air Force organizations to submit requirements for personnel educated in robotics and automation. This ASC specifies an electrical engineering control system program with emphasis in robotics. The Robotic Systems Sequence also satisfies degree and ASC requirements for programs in Aeronautical, Astronautical, and Systems Engineering and in Environmental Management. The sequence is also available to graduate students at Wright State University and the University of Dayton through the Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute (DAGSI).

4IHD: Robotic Systems - A study of the control of robotic manipulators for the remote accomplishment of tasks in hazardous or repetitive environments. This multidisciplinary topic includes kinematic and dynamic modeling, control of autonomous and teleoperated systems, trajectory and task planning, and the resolution of redundancy issues for robot system design. Digital and adaptive control techniques are included.

EENG 540 Robotic Fundamentals (4-0)4

Prerequisite or corequisite: EENG 562 or SENG 565 or Permission of Instructor The objective of this course is to provide the student with an understanding of the fundamental principles of robotics. The study of kinematics, dynamics, and motion control are presented in detail. Principles of robotic manipulator design, trajectory planning, sensing, and computer systems are surveyed. Current applications are also discussed. Throughout the course, the emphasis is on the design and analysis of Air Force systems. Lectures are reinforced by a series of laboratory group projects that include experimental evaluations on a PUMA 560 robot and an Adept 550 SCARA robot.

MECH 723 Advanced Robotics (4-0)4

Corequisites: MATH 521, SENG 525, EENG 540, or Permission of Instructor Singular value decomposition is introduced to prioritize multiple tasks and to examine kinematic and actuator redundancy and multi-sensor fusion. Screw theory is introduced to analyze multi-arm and grasp coordination issues. Force control concepts for unstructured environments based on impedance matching are developed and task space control approaches are introduced.

MECH 725 Man-in-the-Loop Control (4-0)4

Prerequisite: EENG 540, Undergraduate Control Course or SENG 565 This course examines approaches that are being tried in various man-in-the-loop applications including remotely piloted vehicles, teleoperators, simulators, and interactive computer simulations. Issues examined include: appropriate levels of human intervention and remote autonomy in the system; impact on operator performance of data type, intensity, quality and display format; impact of time delay on stability; and procedures for evaluating man-in-the-loop systems. The course includes laboartory exercises in implementation of state-of-the art teleoperator systems

Want to go to School Here?

See the Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute page for more information. The Air Force Institute of Technology is available to any engineering graduate student. Applicants are not required to be affiliated with the Department of Defense. AFIT provides a unique educational experience: students attend class with Armed Forces Officers and have access (based upon research areas) to the world class research facilities of the Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratories and Armstrong Aerospace Medical Laboratories as well as the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright Patterson AFB, OH. Additional opportunities exist with our Summer Internship Program.


Dr. Curtis H. Spenny, P.E.
Major Dean L. Schneider, Ph.D.
Major Keith Shomper, Ph.D.


Ph.D. Students:

MS Students:

Laboratory Personnel:

Our Sponsor

Visit our Sponsor: AFMC Robotics and Automation Center of Excellence

For more Information: [email protected]
Bldg 640 Rm 220A
2750 P Street
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio 45433-7765
513-255-3636 ext 4595

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