Nick Roy

Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics


Research Interests:

Robotics, Machine Learning, Autonomous Systems, Planning and Reasoning, Human-Computer Interaction, Micro Air Vehicles

Nick Roy runs the Robust Robotics Group, and our mission is to develop the software that enables unmanned vehicles to operate with a very high degree of autonomy in the air, on the ground and in water. Robots should not have human supervisors and should be able to operate by themselves over long distances and long time periods carrying out complex missions. Robots should be able to work alongside human partners as easily as people work with each other. The prime directive for every graduate student and post-doc in my group is to focus on the most interesting and most impactful research questions. What do we want the robot to do that it cannot do right now, and why can't it? And when addressing a research question in autonomy, it is not enough to demonstrate how to get a vehicle to exhibit a new capability, but we have to explain the technical gap that existed prior to the research -- what didn't we know before? What is the underlying principle that other people can use? My job as an advisor is to help each student and post-doc identify the research question, frame the technical question, and set them on the path to answering that technical question. The role of each student and post-doc is to follow that path, execute on the technical development, and be able to communicate their insight to the community. I expect everyone to publish on average a novel conference paper each year, although this is not a requirement and research does require patience. I place a premium on the writing process, and I engage substantially with each student and post-doc in the writing and revising process to produce the best papers we can. I also take seriously the software development process as part of training, and expect everyone's software to live on after they have completed their degrees. Pragmatically, I have a group of about 10-15 students and postdocs. I meet with everyone 1:1 once per week (travel permitting). I also have weekly group meetings, which I consider to be the most important meeting of the week, where people can engage with each others' research and learn from each other. I consider collaboration to be crucial. Research in autonomous robots is a team sport. All of the best things that have happened in my group came from people working together, and it is not unusual for me to have people working so closely together they share the keyboard. People are encouraged to collaborate not only within the group, but also with people in other research groups. I consider equity and inclusion also to be crucial. I view students and post-docs as partners in research. and I try hard never to ask someone to do a task I wouldn't be willing to do myself. I expect everyone to share all responsibilities. I expect senior people to mentor junior people, and I expect junior people to contribute to the community of the group, asking questions and participating in research discussions from day one.

Research Clusters:


Google Scholar:


Automation, Control and Artificial Intelligence, Air Transportation, Vehicles and Energy, Emerging Mobility

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