Safe Unmanned Robotic Ensembles (SURE)

Autonomous robotic ensembles of the future, such as self-driving and cooperative cars and other robot swarms are expected to positively influence our life and society. But they will need to guarantee the highest level of safety, especially when the general public is involved. Threats to the safe operation may come not only from external sources, such as changed or unfavourable environmental conditions or exogenous traffic and vehicles, but from internal sources as well. This last category includes faulty individuals, as the result of normal or accidental break down, or otherwise misbehaving ones, for instance due to malicious cyber-attacks.

Goal/ objective

The overall goal of SURE is the development of robust, adaptable and scalable diagnosis and monitoring architectures for robot ensembles. Robust diagnosis and fault tolerant capabilities will be designed in the ensemble control and communication architecture, leading to the prompt detection, isolation and accommodation of the effects of faulty and compromised members. Due to scalability, efficiency and robustness considerations, we will implement the proposed architecture in a distributed fashion, so that each member will be endowed with the capability of diagnosing itself and the neighbours, without the need for a central authority.

Work programme

The project will address and answer the following questions:
Q1. How multi-scale modelling techniques can be embedded in existing distributed fault diagnosis formulations and applied to robotic ensembles with varying topologies?
Q2. Under which conditions a faulty or misbehaving unit can be detected in a distributed and robust way, regarding the ensemble topology, the amount of information exchanged and the time between successive topology variations?
Q3. How the local amount of information exchange and computation can be optimized to reach the best tradeoff in terms of scalability and detectability properties?

The project will be subdivided into three main work packages:
WP1: Theoretical development and characterization
WP2: Robotic ensemble test-bed design and simulation
WP3: Experimental robotic ensemble test-bed construction and validation


SURE contributes to three, multidisciplinary areas which are clearly important to the European Research Area; Control Systems, Distributed Robotics and Vehicle and Road Traffic Engineering.
The expected impact on European society and industry is vast, both in terms of economic values and number of affected persons: it is interesting to notice that the 2015 Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report puts autonomous vehicles at the climax of expectation, with a time-to-maturity between 5 and 10 years. The whole European automotive sector will be touched by these revolution, the outstanding economic impact of automated vehicles projected up to 71 billions of Euros in 2030, with 44 million units hitting the roads, according to recent reports. SURE is investing on a feature, safety, that will be fundamental for public and legal acceptance of cooperative autonomous driving vehicles, in a moment that such technology is currently pursued but industrial research is focusing on technological and feasibility issue. We are ahead of time now, but results will be delivered at a moment when they will be highly needed. Finally, the theoretical foundation work on adaptive multi-scale models for fault diagnosis of large distributed systems should be of scientific interest per se.

Principal Investigator


Control Engineering, distributed systems, cyber physical systems, autonomous vehicles, robotics, safety, fault tolerance, cyber attacks


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