Pilobolus at the Lied Center

We hosted a workshop today with UNL dance students and Pilobolus to explore how robots and dance can merge together.  Tomorrow, we will be performing some mini-shows with our robots and the UNL dancers at the Johnny Carson Theater at the Lied Center starting at 6:30.  This is right before Pilobolus’ performance, which will include a showing of Seraph which is a show with dancers and flying robots we developed with Pilobolus and MIT last year.  There are a few articles covering the show:


NIMBUS Lab won sponsorship from Ascending Technologies

The NIMBUS Lab has won a 7,500€ sponsorship offered by Ascending Technologies, the company behind the Hummingbird and Pelican UAVs. These funds were provided to support UAV research teams with the “most innovative and potentially ground-breaking one” projects. This is our project abstract:

We plan to develop the hardware, software, and algorithms to enable an AscTec UAV to catch and avoid balls that are thrown at it. Consider a group of kids all throwing balls at the UAV from all angles. The UAV would avoid being hit by red balls, while catching green balls. This is the first step in our long-term goal of creating systems and algorithms that will enable UAVs to reach their full potential in dynamic, real-world environments.

Sensing and catching balls requires real-time vision processing, obstacle avoidance, and dynamic motion planning. The AscTec UAVs have the power and agility to achieve these goals. Their agility has been illustrated time and again in motion capture rooms. Currently, without this precise localization information, researchers limit autonomously operating UAVs to slow and deliberate actions to avoid running into obstacles.

We aim to bridge this gap to enable high-speed, dynamic actions on UAVs in the real-world. The real-world is messy; there is no motion capture system, GPS and radio may be intermittent, wind is a factor, and there are many dynamic obstacles. Catching balls will show that the UAVs have the processing capabilities and agility to autonomously interact with real-time physical events in the real-world. We plan to develop a lighter weight high speed and high resolution camera processing system to support the needed vision processing, which will leave sufficient thrust to allow high-speed dynamic actions. We will demonstrate the system at a variety of public events, including at a nationally televised UNL sporting events.

Sponsorship announcement:

Winning Abstracts:


nimbuslab’s channel in youtube

Check it out


UNL receives Air Force grant

Article by on Monday, September 27, 2010

UNL just got a big boost from the air force to help find and fix faults in its modern military systems. They’re working with UAV’s which are basically unmanned aircrafts. The military is using more and more of them these days. UNL is hoping this extra money will help advance these types of aircrafts, to make them safer and more dependable for the military.

This might not look like your typical college classroom…and it might appear that more fun than learning is going on…but what these grad students and professors are doing here will help keep the Air Force safer…which in turn keeps us safer. Those things flying around are miniature uav’s…or unmanned aircrafts, the groups goal is to make the software in them safer and more dependable.

“We are taking a very different approach from what has been done before so instead of just looking at small pieces of the software, we’re looking at the whole system, the software that runs it, the hardware that supports it, the sensors that are a part of it and also the people that program and tailors the systems so they work well,” Prof. Sebastian Elbaum said.

The $4 million from the Air Force base will help with that, and they’ve already started. Right now they’re controlling the little planes with something just about everyone has…but they’re coming up with other options.

“Application program traits, it’s the interface for programming our own tools to fly these that are outside the apps that you can control with the itouch and iPad so we’ve already started work on that,” Grad Student Charles Lucas said.

This isn’t something that we’ll see in the field over night, the group says they’re looking at about a 4 year timeline. In a couple of months they will be getting even bigger versions of those airplanes…something you might not know is this department is actually considered to be in the top 5 world wide and they hope this opens the doors to more grants and more research



UNL nets $4M Air Force contract

Article written by Kevin Abourezk for the The Lincoln Journal Star on Monday, September 27, 2010

Javier Darsie gripped the sleek iPad as he worked to control a clover leaf-shaped miniature helicopter hovering in a University of Nebraska-Lincoln laboratory Monday.

With the support of Sen. Ben Nelson, UNL has received a $4 million grant from the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Scientific Research that will allow university researchers to improve military efforts to control unmanned aerial vehicles such as the one handled by Darsie this week.

“Ultimately, the goal here is to replace risky tasks that human forces have to conduct now with machines,” said Matthew Dwyer, professor and chairman of software engineering. “The extent you can do that and do it reliably is going to allow for safer operations in these dangerous areas.”

The grant propels the university further in its efforts to gain more military research funds. The project is funded through an appropriations earmark requested by Nelson, who serves on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

It is one of several such earmarks UNL has gotten for military research, said Prem S. Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development.

“Earmark projects like this help us build capacity, and then we are in a better position to compete for similar grants on a long-term basis,” Paul said.

Another earmark-funded project at UNL is studying the effects of improvised explosive devices on the head in order to develop more effective helmets for U.S. troops. That project for the Department of Defense was funded by an earmark requested by Nelson and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry.

Other defense department grants have paid for UNL projects such as an effort to improve a high-intensity laser to see through metal to detect defects in jet turbines and a study looking at technology that can be used to defend against chemical threats, Paul said.

UNL has managed to build upon each defense earmark it has received in recent years to acquire other grants, Paul said.

“We’ve leveraged those earmarks very well many times,” he said.

The latest $4 million Air Force grant will pay for a team of widely respected university software engineers to find and fix faults in modern military systems, such as unmanned aerial vehicles.

Those military systems are a complex network of hardware systems, software systems and human beings working to control the systems to achieve a mission, Dwyer said.

A failure in any part of the network can result in mission failure, he said. While much research has been done on improving military hardware and software, little has been done on improving human operation of those systems, he said.

The six-person UNL team will develop methods for modeling how people interact with software and hardware, and with each other, to understand the quality of the system as a whole, he said.

“This will enable system developers to locate faults and fix them, leading to more dependable systems,” he said.

The project, which began this month, is scheduled to be completed by August 2014 by the UNL team, whose members are all in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Other team members are: Professor Gregg Rothermel, the project’s principal investigator; Professor Sebastian Elbaum; associate professors Myra Cohen and Witawas Srisa-an; and assistant professor Anita Sarma.

Elbaum said the project’s long-term goal is to prevent the death and injury of U.S. troops on the front lines.

“I think we’re going to operate these vehicles safely without putting someone at risk and still completing the mission successfully.”