Autonomous Aerial Vehicles
Sometime around the beginning of 2006 the Evolvable Systems Group joined forces with the Adaptive Control Group to be come, uncreatively, the Adaptive Control and Evolvable Systems Group. This meant that I was suddenly hanging around with a bunch of controls engineers again, which was a nice change of pace. One of the projects that I worked on for a little while was this experimental aerial vehicle, which could operate in both remotely-controlled and fully-autonomous modes.
I did a little bit of work helping design improvements to the electromechanical systems, but I spent most of my time thinking about how we could use it as a platform for vision-based autonomous flight. I spent a lot of my time developing and defending research plans in an effort to get and keep money for the team, and very little time doing actual research, so I quickly became frustrated. 2006 was not a good time to be on the research side of NASA! However, while I never got to do the vision-directed flight research that I'd envisioned, all that thinking put me on the path towards developing the Vision Workbench, which has been one of my greatest NASA successes. So I guess it all worked out in the end.