Keynote Addresses and Talks

Prof Yang Gao

Professor Yang Gao

Associate Dean (International), Professor of Space Autonomous Systems
University of Surrey, UK

Title: Future AI and Robotics for Space (FAIR-SPACE)

Abstract: The FAIR-SPACE Hub ( is a UK national centre of research excellence in space robotics and AI. The Hub was launched in November 2017, as part of the government’s £84m R&D funding on “robotics and AI for extreme environments” through the Industry Strategic Challenge Fund. Led by the University of Surrey the Hub brings together leading experts from academia, industry and governments, and aims at pushing the boundary of AI robotics for future space utilization and exploration. This talk will give an overview of the University of Surrey’s 40-year research heritage on space technologies and development of real-world space missions, with a particular focus on space AI robotics research in sensing, perception, GNC, autonomy and bio-inspired mechanisms. The talk will further present FAIR-SPACE’s vision, objectives and initial research programme and opportunities on partnership.

Bio Note: Professor Yang Gao FIET FRAeS, is the Professor of Space Autonomous Systems and the Associate Dean (international) of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Surrey. She is also the Hub Director of Future AI and Robotics for Space (FAIR-SPACE), a EPSRC/UKSA funded national centre of research excellence in space robotics and autonomous systems. Prof Gao specializes in robotic vision, machine learning and biomimetics for spacecraft GNC and mechanisms. She brings nearly 20 years of R&D experience in solving robotic system problems, and is actively involved in the development of real-world space missions like ESA’s ExoMars, Proba3, LUCE-Ice Mapper, UK’s MoonLITE/Moonraker and China’s Chang’E3, etc. Full academic profile at

Dimitar Filev

Dr. Dimitar Filev

Research & Advanced Engineering,
Ford Motor Company,
2101 Village Road, Dearborn, MI 48121, Rm. 1343

Title: Evolving Embedded Systems and Their Vehicle Applications

Abstract: The emerging trend of increasing flexibility, adaptation, and autonomy of embedded control and information systems is the driving force behind the evolving systems paradigm. Evolving systems are systems with a flexible model structure that adjust to changes which cannot be solely handled by parameter adaptation. Evolving intelligent systems develop their structure and knowledge representation through continuous learning from data and interaction with the environment. They exploit synergies between two powerful concepts – real-time data granulation and machine learning - with no limitations on the types of the model structure that may include regression models, neural networks, fuzzy, and/or stochastic models. Practical applications encompass a wide range of systems with variable parameters and structure, and multiple operating modes. This presentation provides an overview of the multiple facets of evolving systems theory and describes some of their automotive applications to adaptive process control, automated calibration, anomaly detection, driver state estimation, and fuel economy optimization.

Bio Note: Dr. Dimitar Filev is a Henry Ford Technical Fellow at the Ford Research & Innovation Center, Dearborn, Michigan. He is conducting research in computational intelligence, AI and control, and their applications to vehicle systems, autonomous driving, and automotive engineering. Dr. Filev has published 4 books, over 200 journal articles and conference papers, and holds over 100 US and foreign patents. He is the recipient of the 2008 Norbert Wiener Award of the IEEE SMC Society and the 2015 Pioneer’s Award of the IEEE CIS Society. He received his PhD. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Czech Technical University in Prague in 1979. Dr. Filev is a Fellow of IEEE and a member of the NAE. He is past president of the IEEE Systems, Man, & Cybernetics Society (2016-2017).

Adrian Stoica

Adrian Stoica, PhD

Senior Research Scientist
Manager, Robotic Systems Estimation, Decision and Control NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
MS 198-219, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109

Title: Robots on the Moon and on Mars

Abstract: All prominent space agencies are focusing their near-term efforts in surface robotics on the Moon, with the notable exception of NASA, which has a balanced portfolio between Moon and Mars, and is preparing to land on other bodies, such as Europa. Various concepts, such as the Moon Village promoted by the European Space Agency (ESA), offer a vision of collaboration via assets (infrastructure and robotic systems) owned (and operated) independently, by different nations, yet engaged in mutual support and assistance, in a robotic ecosystem. The private companies are now joining the space family and their presence on the surface of the Moon is imminent. The space economy, which has proven to investors that it can bring profits (with Earth-orbiting satellites), has the cis-lunar space as its natural extension beyond Earth orbit, and in time will expand further, to Mars. The talk will review current and planned Moon and Mars missions, illustrating the state-of-the-art in technologies and operations; then, it will take a leap into the future, presenting a vision of lunar robotic villages, robotic mining operations, and human presence, permanent colonies, and tourism and entertainment zones. It will point out what technologies need maturation, in order to make this future possible. Among those, perhaps within the next decade, and, if not, almost certainly before the end of the following one, exploration by robotic intelligence will exceed the capabilities of current human-driven exploration, and become the determining factor in conquering space. The consequences of such a disruptive technology are difficult to imagine.

Bio Note: Dr Adrian Stoica has over 22 years of work at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology. Known primarily for building the first US Satellite, Explorer 1, for building and operating the Voyager spacecraft that has now travel beyond the boundaries of our solar system, and for building and operating the Mars rovers, JPL is the leading NASA Center for robotic space exploration. JPL has over 6000 researchers involved in imagining, planning and execution of space missions. Adrian is currently Manager of the Robotic Systems Estimation and Controls Group. He also acts as Program Executive for Blue Sky Studies Program, and Coordinator of the Innovation to Flight Program at JPL. He is a NIAC Fellow (NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts) having led a study on a solar power infrastructure at the lunar south pole. His research interests include robotic intelligence and learning, collaboration between humans and teams of robots, non-conventional computing, and technologies for enhanced quality of life. He has started three conferences, the oldest, NASA/ESA Conference on Adaptive Hardware and Systems, running yearly since 1999. He is also Vice-President for Membership and Student Activities in the IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Society.

Colin Cunningham

Professor Colin Cunningham

Technology Champion at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory Edinburgh and Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor, University of Edinburgh

Title: Future Space Systems: Constellations of Nanosatellites to Giant Telescopes

Abstract: Next year will see the launch of the biggest space telescope ever: the James Webb Space Telescope. The development of the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI) was led by the UK Astronomy Centre in Edinburgh. I will show how space telescopes have their origins in the 1920’s, explain the UK role in the JWST and discuss the next projects being studied now. I will then speculate on how revolutionary technology could enable much bigger telescopes to be built in space, for instance, to detect signs of life on planets outside our solar system. Could we build a hyper-telescope from a swarm of CubeSats, or even use additive manufacturing to build a giant mirror in space?

Bio: Professor Colin Cunningham is the Technology Champion at the UK Astronomy Centre, a role that makes use of his extensive experience and connections to guide future developments and projects at the UK ATC through roadmapping activities and working with project partners, particularly through the Scottish Universities and Industry. Partially retired now, from 2005 to 2016 he was the Programme Director for the UK’s £88M contribution to the European Extremely Large Telescope, which will be the world’s largest optical and infrared telescope when it is completed by the European Southern Observatory in the mid 2020’s. He also ran the EU FP7 OPTICON Innovation Network for optical and infrared astronomy, and was previously chair of the UK Space Agency’s Space Projects Review Panel and a member of the scientific committee for the ESF/ESA TECHBREAK technology foresight activity. He started work as an electronics engineer, designing and building instruments for a range of scientific applications from plant physiology through freshwater ecology to geophysics. In 1987 he moved into astronomical instrumentation and became project manager for the SCUBA submillimetre camera for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the first operational camera in this waveband, and then was systems engineer for the SPIRE instrument on the largest infrared telescope ever launched, the Herschel Space Observatory. He was one of two symposium chairs for the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation meeting held in Edinburgh in 2016, attended by 1,700 delegates. He is Honorary Professor at Heriot-Watt University, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Glasgow University and is a Fellow of the IET, the SPIE and the IoP, and is Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Innovation, Instrumentation and Systems Engineering at the University of Edinburgh.