Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Computer Science and Engineering

First Advisor

Ioannis Rekleitis

Second Advisor

Jason M. O’Kane


The holy grail of robotics is producing robotic systems capable of efficiently executing all the tasks that are hard, or even impossible, for humans. Humans, undoubtedly, from both a hardware and software perspective, are extremely complex systems capable of executing many complicated tasks. Thus, the complexity of many state-of-the-art robotic systems is also expected to progressively increase, with the goal to match or even surpass human abilities. Recent developments have emphasized mostly hardware, providing highly complex robots with exceptional capabilities. On the other hand, they have illustrated that one important bottleneck of realizing such systems as a common reality is real-time motion planning.

This thesis aims to assist the development of complex robotic systems from a computational perspective. The primary focus is developing novel methodologies to address real-time motion planning that enables the robots to accomplish their goals safely and provide the building blocks for developing robust advanced robot behavior in the future. The proposed methods utilize and enhance state-of-the-art approaches to overcome three different types of complexity:

1. Motion planning for high-dimensional systems. RRT+, a new family of general sampling-based planners, was introduced to accelerate solving the motion planning problem for robotic systems with many degrees of freedom by iteratively searching in lowerdimensional subspaces of increasing dimension. RRT+ variants computed solutions orders of magnitude faster compared to state-of-the-art planners. Experiments in simulation of kinematic chains up to 50 degrees of freedom, and the Baxter humanoid robot validate the effectiveness of the proposed technique.

2. Underwater navigation for robots in cluttered environments. AquaNav, a real-time navigation pipeline for robots moving efficiently in challenging, unknown, and unstructured environments, was developed for Aqua2, a hexapod swimming robot with complex, yet to be fully discovered, dynamics. AquaNav was tested offline in known maps, and online in unknown maps utilizing vision-based SLAM. Rigorous testing in simulation, inpool, and open-water trials show the robustness of the method on providing efficient and safe performance, enabling the robot to navigate by avoiding static and dynamic obstacles in open-water settings with turbidity and surge.

3. Active perception of areas of interest during underwater operation. AquaVis, an extension of AquaNav, is a real-time navigation technique enabling robots, with arbitrary multi-sensor configurations, to safely reach their target, while at the same time observing multiple areas of interest from a desired proximity. Extensive simulations show safe behavior, and strong potential for improving underwater state estimation, monitoring, tracking, inspection, and mapping of objects of interest in the underwater domain, such as coral reefs, shipwrecks, marine life, and human infrastructure.