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A quarterly newsletter from the QUT Centre for Robotics

Wow – we're almost through 2021, that year went fast. It’s been a fantastic but occasionally challenging year for the centre, and it was great for so many in the centre to come together at the end of year retreat recently (more on that later in this issue). 

Centres have always been about people, and this year it’s been great to have a number of PhD graduations from the group, including – Doug Morrison, James Mount, Justin Kennedy, Matthew Cooper, Kulatunga Mudiyanselage Eranda Tennakoon, Mario Strydom, Tim Jojnik, James Barker, Jeremy Opie, Chandrama Sarker, Dimity Miller, Stephen Hausler and Ahmed Khodair Abbas).  There have been several new additions to the greater family of the centre (with more on the way!), with Justin Beri, AI Gavin Suddrey, AI David Hall and CI Aaron McFadyen all celebrating new additions to their families.  

Sadly, we will lose CI Jasmin Martin, who has played a significant role in the group, from her PhD all the way to her role as a lecturer these past few years. Jas has had a substantial impact on the research and teaching in the group, but also in her roles within the centre, and has played a significant part in the vibrant culture we have managed to get to today. We will farewell CIs Jas, and Feras (who joins the University of Adelaide) later this week.  

We’ve also had staff join us as new permanent academics, with AI Tobias Fischer set to become a Lecturer from the start of 2022 in the group, having first joined QCR as a postdoc at the start of 2020 after PhD and postdoc stints at Imperial College London. 

The centre has now been in existence for almost 2 years, following 10 years of centre building and the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision led by Peter before that at QUT. It’s been a challenging 2 years, and we’re proud of how everyone has managed to keep things not just going but excelling during this time, and for all the successes and accolades achieved by those in the centre despite these challenges. 

However, we are now very much in future planning and development mode. While the centre’s future is already very healthy, including substantial involvement in three major federally-funded research centres, as well as a range of other large national and international research consortiums plus QUT’s internal support, we are looking to diversify and grow further. 

The first piece of this strategy revolves around education – the lifeblood of any university, and something that can be vulnerable to external events as we’ve seen these last two years. CI and Joint Director Peter Corke is leading the development of a Masters in Robotics and AI, which should increase our educational offering in these exciting spaces and substantially open up new audiences including professionals in Australia looking to upskill in these areas. Creating the course and getting it approved is a substantial investment, and we’re happy to be working with support of the university to do so. 

The second revolves around people – with new needs and people moving on, there will likely be new academic positions available in the group early in 2022. On top of that, the group has a number of funded postdoc and PhD positions (over 20) that are available to start in 2022 onwards – please consult the current vacancies jobs board or reach out to the centre to find out more.  

We are also happy to support fellowship applications – DECRAs, Future, Laureate and other schemes – for those who are looking to move back to Australia from overseas or back to Brisbane from interstate. The centre has a great record in winning fellowships – once again, reach out to the centre via email to find out more. We are also always happy to talk with industry and government partners about supporting potential bids for funding schemes like the ARC Linkage scheme, CRC-Ps and CRCs. 

The centre is also keen to explore student projects with industry partners – one of the primary mechanisms for these are capstone projects and industry placements. These projects can help fast track research and development at your organisation, and bootstrap into larger more substantial ongoing collaborations. If you would like to explore working with the centre and a QUT undergraduate student, please email  

The robotics landscape has moved on substantially since 2010 when the current incarnation of QUT Robotics was first founded. Lone universities alone cannot compete in major initiatives, and so there has been, and will continue to be, substantial investment in building a compelling “Team Queensland” and “Team Australia”, especially in areas of strategic focus like manufacturing and space. We already have extensive connections to our colleagues at local organisations like CSIRO/DATA61, The University of Queensland and ARMHub, but we’ll be working with them and other parties to present a compelling case for future strategic initiatives and investment in robotics in our own backyard. In 2022 the centre will run a number of external events with industry and partners to further grow this momentum. 

Finally, we hope that everyone will get a chance to take a break and recharge at the end of the year, and to celebrate as appropriate the festive season. 

All the best for the end of the year and see you all in 2022! 

Professor Michael Milford, Joint Director, ARC Laureate Fellow 

US Philanthropic Success 

CI Matthew Dunbabin has been awarded a significant US philanthropic grant to progress and refine robotic, machine learning technology and associated user interfaces over 18-months that will empower stakeholders in four countries to massively scale and quantify restoration of degraded coral reef systems. 



Coral Spawning Adventures

In November, CI Matthew Dunbabin, with PhD student Serena Mou and REF team’s Riki Lamont travelled to Lizard Island, on the Great Barrier Reef for the annual mass coral spawning event. They used 3 robots running real-time AI to precisely deploy coral larvae onto degraded reefs.  

These Autonomous Surface Vehicles are lightweight, and easily re-configured into 3 distinct modes. Collection mode allows the ASVs to be driven around during the late-night coral spawning, accurately collecting the precious spawn. To generate underwater, 3D maps on the areas marked for larval release, the ASVs can be mounted with cameras and deployed autonomously and cooperatively. Finally, for deployment, each ASV can carry up to 100L of coral larvae and release them onto suitable locations as determined in real-time by an on-board classifier. 

They released ~3 million coral larvae over almost a thousand square meters of damaged reef in just 3 hours. The deployment sites (and control sites) will be remapped by the ASVs periodically to monitor and quantify the growth of the corals over time. 

Additionally, QCR's Dorian Tsai and QUT's Karen Jackel travelled to the Australian Institute for Marine Science's (AIMS) National Sea Simulator in Townsville for the mass coral spawning. The two project specialists learned about the research and technological advancements aimed at saving the Great Barrier Reef from climate change. In particular, they observed the coral aquaculture and deployment facilities, aimed at automatically collecting, fertilising and growing baby corals for mass deployment onto degraded reefs. 



CRC Project 

Congratulations to both CI Chris Lehnert and CI Feras Dayoub who have been awarded a Future Food Systems CRC Project worth $122k!  

Title: Robotic Task Automation in Protected Cropping Systems: Enabling autonomous pollination in elite Australian greenhouses using mobile robots. 


New book and membership

Congratulations to CI Felipe Gonzalez who has published a new book UAV or Drones for Remote Sensing Applications in GPS/GNSS Enabled and GPS/GNSS Denied Environments. 

He has also been elected as Member of Standards Australia Committees and Joint Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand Committees: SV-001 Aircraft and Space Systems ISO/TC 20/SC 14. This committee looks after Space Systems and drones Sub technical committees and allows Australian representation at an international level. 


New Membership 

Congratulations to CI Thierry Peynot who was elected Chair of the IEEE QLD CS/RAS joint societies for 2022. 


In the media - Manufacturer's Monthly 

Congratulations to CI Will Browne for being featured in Manufacturer's Monthly! 

QCR Moon Mission on Track 

CI Thierry Peynot and members from the Research Engineering Facility have developed a navigation and perception system to support a small, autonomous, 20kg rover. 
QUT media found that in a trial of the system at CSIRO’s new In-Situ Resource Utilisation Facility – established by the national science agency to test technologies in Moon-like environments – the QUT researchers demonstrated the rover’s autonomous navigation and perception system. 
The testing of the rover is part of a broader collaboration between QUT and Boeing, in which Boeing is providing expertise in aerospace engineering to advance the testing including demonstrating potential methods to execute space missions. See full story here.


Impacting the future of Airspace  

Researchers from the QUT Centre for Robotics led by CI Aaron Mcfadyen, and enabled by the Research Engineering Facility, have been critical to the development and deployment of an automated airspace authorisation trial for drones. 
Over the past 12 months, QCR and REF staff have worked on transforming research on aircraft collision risk analysis for drone safety into a usable air traffic data management and map generation system for Airservices Australia and CASA. These software outputs have been seamlessly integrated into the CASA-verified drone safety apps and now allows for near real-time (and free) assessments to operate in controlled airspace (within 3 nautical miles of airport runways). 
This changes the current practice whereby flight authorisation can exceed 21 days processing time, with an $800 assessment fee. Since May this year, certified commercial drone operators have been able to get near real-time approvals to fly a drone near Canberra, Adelaide and Perth airports, with over 150 applications having been received since the trial began. 
Link to CASA video on the trial - 


Centre Retreat

The QUT Centre for Robotics rounded out a challenging but successful year with a thought provoking and fun end of year retreat. 
The program included: 
- a range of spotlight talks from ECRs: PhDMastersEngineers and Postdocs 
Congratulations to winners Scarlett Raine & Tobias Fischer, as well as awards and recognition to Jesse, Samuel & Geoff (HDR Category) and James MountStephen HauslerSteven Martin & Justin Kennedy 
- an overview of the centre's four active research programs and highlights and plans 
--- 🦾 Physical Interaction Peter Corke 
--- 💡 Visual Learning & Understanding Niko Sünderhauf 
--- ✈️ Decision & Control Jason Ford, and 
--- 👁️ Perception & Localisation Michael Milford
- a super interesting and provocative keynote talk from UQ Queensland Brain Institute's Professor Jason Mattingley, "A cognitive neuroscience perspective on the brain and behaviour" 
- a challenging team building attempt at the infamous marshmallow tower challenge 
- a demonstration from Glen Rhodes - Magician that showed how far humans, let alone robots, have to go in terms of perceiving and understanding rapid feats of manipulation 
- reflections on the year from Peter Corke, including numerous awards and highlights, such as the three  ARC centres the centre is currently leading or part of: 


ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Collaborative Robotics in Advanced Manufacturing News


Translating our research into industry solutions 

The Australian Cobotics Centre officially started on 31st August and since then, the team has been getting reacquainted with our industry partners and any changes to their strategy or plans since the proposal was submitted at the end of 2019.  For some of them, COVID has resulted in a change of priorities from when they initially agreed to take part and for others it has provided even more justification as to why they need to embrace Industry 4.0 and beyond.  
These discussions have helped us to refine our research programs and create what we are calling ‘Translation Projects’. These will be projects that allow us to work with industry partners to co-design a solution for their organisation.  We hope that these projects will also be of benefit to other industries and sectors and look forward to sharing these with you over the next 5 years!  The first of these, the Shorts Project is underway with our industry partner, InfraBuild. 
The Shorts Project involves researchers from the Biomimic Cobots program and Engineers from QUT’s Research Engineering Faculty. They are working with Infrabuild’s Sydney mill to research and develop a high-speed sensing and control system that is capable of identifying the steel bars and coils and have the ability to be able to work safely within relative proximity of their operators. This will result in better working conditions for employees who will now operate the cobot instead of complete the tasks, and a more accurate and efficient identification process, resulting in higher quality products for their customers.  The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by mid-next year.  
You can follow the progress of this project via our website: 


Official Launch - ARC Training Centre for Joint Biomechanics 

The ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Joint Biomechanics was officially launched on Friday, November 12.  
Centre members, university staff, industry and clinical partners, advisory committee members and the Centre’s broader network met in-person to hear from official speakers Vice-Chancellor and President, QUT - Prof. Margaret Sheil AO, Centre Director - Prof. YuanTong Gu, ARC Training Centre for Joint Biomechanics, Australian Research Council (ARC) Executive Director – Engineering & Information Services - Dr. Robert Mun, and Centre Clinical Lead - Adj Prof. Ashish Gupta. 
Following the official opening of the Centre, we were privileged to have a panel of experts from industry, research, higher-education, and the medical technology sector talk on diversity as a key to achieving meaningful innovation. Our panellists shared their personal and professional experience in building and managing diverse teams to achieve success in research, health care provision and commercial settings. 
Watch this space for more research updates from the Centre’s surgical robotics program including CI Michael Milford, Dr Jing Peng and PhD student Morgan Windsor. 


QUT Motorsport News

The QUT Motorsport Driverless team has been tirelessly developing its first driverless prototype, set to launch this month. Creating an autonomous race car requires the team to design intricate control systems and software to interface with the mechanical systems of the vehicle. With the support of QUT Centre for Robotics and other generous sponsors, QUT Motorsport has used a LiDAR sensor to collect initial data and develop software algorithms for self-driving capabilities. Furthermore, a fully student designed steering actuation system (pictured below) has been installed which allows complete electronic control of the car's steering. The team looks forward to unveiling its driverless prototype this month to its faculty supporters. 


ARM Hub News


ARMed with AI New Skills and Technology 

Australian based organisation, ARM Hub, is venturing into their latest endeavor with the launch of ARM Hub Sprints Artificial Intelligence Program. Since establishing in 2019, with co-funding through QUT, ARM Hub has been immersed in the world of artificial intelligence, robotics and manufacturing, allowing for businesses to develop the skills and commercially adopt R&D solutions to overcome production challenges and grow business and employment outcomes. 

Australian manufacturing SMEs and microenterprises have been given the opportunity to participate in the 6-9 months ‘Sprint’ program which invites successful applicants to work with ARM Hub’s AI and robotics experts to increase their digital capabilities. With access to resources valued at $25,000, recipients will get an injection of technical expertise and resources to accelerate their technology readiness level and grow their business.  

Expression of interest applications for ARM Hub Sprint AI Accelerator Program will close 9th January 2022. 


Design robotics awarded for Urban Art Projects 

IMCRC congratulates its ‘Design Robotics for Mass Customisation’ team on winning the Cooperative Research Centre Association’s 2020 Award for Excellence in Innovation.  Presented at this year’s Cooperative Research Australia (CRA) Collaborate Innovate 2021 conference, the award recognises outstanding examples of research collaboration that address industry-specific problems for the benefit of Australian industry and the economy.  With funding from IMCRC, in 2017, Brisbane-based design and manufacturing company Urban Art Projects (UAP) embarked on an $8 million design robotics research project in partnership with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and RMIT University (RMIT).  AI Jared Donovan, who accepted the award on behalf of the Design Robotics team, thanked all participants for their contributions to the project. 


ARC Training Centres and Hub bids 

The QUT Centre for Robotics has been involved in the submission of several ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centres and ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hubs in 2021.  
CI Niko Suenderhauf, along with CIs Feras Dayoub and Peter Corkeare Investigators on a new ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub (ITRH) on Intelligent Robotic Systems for Real-Time Asset Management. 
This research hub aims to transform the way assets and infrastructure are managed by developing new capabilities for intelligent robotic systems for inspection, monitoring, and maintenance. 
This 5-year Research Hub is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and 11 partners from industry. It is a joint project led the University of Sydney, with QUT and the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. 

Space Activities 

The group is engaged in a range of strategic bids and under review proposals in the space area, many involving Australia-wide or international consortiums, including major research centres, equipment grants and commercial work. We hope to radically grow our space activities in 2022. 


New Staff

Research Fellow – Fangyi Zhang 
Fangyi Zhang started with us on 1 December as a Research Fellow in Manipulation and Vision.  
Dr. Fangyi Zhang is currently a research fellow with the physical interaction program. He was also a former PhD student in the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (ACRV) at QUT node, supervised by Prof. Peter Corke, Dr. Jürgen Leitner and Prof. Michael Milford. During his PhD, Fangyi was focused on Deep Reinforcement Learning and Transfer Learning for Robotic Reaching, and got his degree in 2018 with the thesis entitled “Learning Real-world Visuo-motor Policies from Simulation”. After that, he joined Alibaba DAMO Academy as a Research Scientist, doing research and development work on drone applications and data mining. His current research interests include robot learning, robotic vision, robotic manipulation, and autonomous systems. 
Prior to his PhD, Fangyi obtained his B.Eng. degree in Automation from East China Jiaotong University in 2010, followed with three years’ work experience on R&D of locomotive control algorithms and electrical systems in the CRRC Zhuzhou Institute from 2010 to 2013. In 2014, he stayed for one year at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, as a research assistant supervised by Prof. Ming Liu, doing research on VLC-based indoor localization and 2D-laser based 3D sensing. More details can be found on his personal website: 

Associate Investigator – Saiful Karim 
QCR has a new Associate Investigator (AI) who will work with Aaron and Jason in the Decision & Control program. Please welcome AI Saiful Karim.   
Dr Karim teaches and researches in various areas of law relating to the environment, ocean, maritime security and autonomous systems. He is currently a Chief Investigator of an ARC discovery project titled “Improving International Law Regulation of Maritime Autonomous Vessels (MAVs).” The aim of this project is to fill a critical gap in current responses in international law in focusing on the challenges posed by MAVs to international maritime security law.  

PhD Awarded

Congratulations to Dr Stephen Hausler for being awarded his PhD “Appearance and Viewpoint Invariant Visual Place Recognition Using Multiscale and Multi-modality Systems


The Stanford most-cited scientists list has just been updated: the QUT Centre for Robotics has at least four academics who feature in the various lists:  
In the overall career lists, which aren't normalized by career stage:  
  • Peter Corke appears at #93 out of 96,361 researchers in the Industrial Engineering & Automation field, top 0.1%!  
  • Michael at #888 out of 96,361 researchers in the Industrial Engineering & Automation field, in the top 0.9%. And #376 based on 2020.  
  • Felipe Gonzalez and Niko Sünderhauf also appeared in the 2020 citation rankings list, which recognizes citations in recent times.  
Citations are obviously just one of many, imperfect, and sometimes misused measures of research impact - but generally do indicate that your work is widely used and referenced by the research community.  
Paper reference: 


QCR in CSRankings  

QCR is at the top of the Robotics list in Australia on   
There is of course no perfect ranking system – this particular one considers only IROS, ICRA and RSS conference papers, in terms of quantity published. 

Ministerial Visit  

The Hon Meaghan Scanlon MP Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs visited QCR on Friday 26 November. 
She did a brief tour of the centre and spoke with various researchers about their projects including: 


Marist College Ashgrove

PhD student Somayeh Hussaini hosted a tour for Marist College Ashgrove for 20 of their year 11 students on Tuesday 12 October.

"It was a great experience to host my first tour of QCR for the Marist College last week. The students were very interested in what we do. They were engaged in the conversations we had throughout the tour. They asked a lot of questions some of which I didn’t have the answers for. I have already sought for answers to better prepare myself for possible future tours. I hope they enjoyed the tour as much as I did while presenting to them," said Somayeh. 

Young Accelerators Program Tour 

AI Tobias Fischer ran a tour last week for the Young Accelerators Program (winners of the Premiers Coding Challenge). There were about 30 people in attendance including students and their teachers.



STEM camp event

Last month the Young Accelerators team delivered the Future You STEM Summit (formerly STEM Camp) to year 11 and 12 students in Brisbane and Townsville. Each event gave the school students the opportunity to work with QUT researchers and students on practical projects for a taste of university life and future careers. Big thanks to CI Peter Corke who led two robotics sessions during the week, and CI Michael Milord who shared his insights and knowledge in a Q&A session on the topic ‘Science is Critical to Australia’s future’.

Kelvin Grove State College Creative Expo

QCR Ambassadors Somayeh and Scarlett along with Research Engineering Facility, team members Riki and Das, attended the Kelvin Grove State College Junior School Creative Expo last Friday.  Somayeh says of the event “The event went very well last Friday. Our booth was very busy throughout the event. There were many primary school students who were very excited to see a robot in their school.

Upcoming events - Robotic Vision Summer School

Now in its 8th year, the summer school is a week-long intensive course designed to cultivate and inspire those with an interest in vision-based robotics.  The school gives attendees the chance to learn about:

  • fundamental and advanced topics in computer vision and robotics
  • the latest developments in robotic vision as presented by world's leading experts
  • robotic vision application domains

The summer school also provides a unique opportunity to experiment with computer vision algorithms on actual robotic hardware; not to mention meet and network with peers and experts in the field. Previous summer schools have included a mix of final year undergraduate students, higher degree research students and industry professionals from companies like Boeing, BHP and Lockheed Martin.

The summer school will be held from Monday 31 January to Friday 4 February 2022 and for the second year running it will adopt a COVID-19 complaint hybrid format.
To find out more about RVSS and our fantastic line up of speaker’s, please visit the RVSS website at  for more information and to register or see brochure here.

Please email if you have any further questions about this event.

QCR Publications from October - December 2021


J Kennedy – 2021.  Thesis - “Wave-Induced marine craft motion estimation and control,” ePrints  

Justin_Kennedy_Thesis.pdf (  

J Martin, J Riseley, JJ Ford - arXiv preprint arXiv:2112.02735, 2021 - 2112.02735.pdf ( 
Faris AzhariCharlotte SennerstenMichael MilfordThierry Peynot arXiv preprint arXiv:2111.11615, 2021
Hendawitharana, S.Ariyanayagam, A.Mahendran, M. & Gonzalez, L. F., Dec 2021, In: International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 66, 13 p., 102587.  
Mohseni, S., Brent, A. C., Kelly, S., Browne, W. N. & Burmester, D., Dec 2021, In: International Journal of Electrical Power and Energy Systems. 133, 23 p., 107183.  
Sandino, J.Galvez-Serna, J.Mandel, N.Vanegas Alvarez, F. & Gonzalez, L. F., 15 Nov 2021, (Accepted/In press) 2022 IEEE Aerospace Conference. IEEE Xplore, 14 p.  
Galvez-Serna, J.Mandel, N.Sandino, J.Vanegas Alvarez, F.Ly, N.Flannery, D. & Gonzalez, L. F., 15 Nov 2021, (Accepted/In press) 2022 IEEE Aerospace Conference. 15 p.  
Sandino, J.Caccetta, P., Sanderson, C., Maire, F. & Gonzalez, L. F., 15 Nov 2021, (Accepted/In press) 2022 IEEE Aerospace Conference. IEEE Xplore, 16 p.  
Mandel, N.Sandino, J.Galvez Serna, J.Vanegas Alvarez, F.Milford, M. & Gonzalez, L. F., 15 Nov 2021, (Accepted/In press) 2022 IEEE Aerospace Conference. IEEE Xplore, 17 p.  
Sandino, J.Maire, F.Caccetta, P., Sanderson, C. & Gonzalez, L. F., 1 Nov 2021, In: Remote Sensing. 13, 21, 30 p., 4481.  
Sample-Efficient Learning of Deformable Linear  Object Manipulation in the Real World through Self-Supervision 
Robert Lee, Masashi Hamaya, Takayuki Murooka, Yoshihisa Ijiri, Peter Corke, number 21-1356, has been accepted for publication as a Submission for RA-L only in the IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters(RA-L).  

The proceedings of ICRA2021 are now published online.

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