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Trivedi awarded NSF CAREER grant

Amit Trivedi

Assistant Professor Amit Ranjan Trivedi received a National Science Foundation CAREER grant, which sponsors promising early career investigations, for his research on autonomous drones.

Trivedi works with tiny drones—think the size of insects—that will use machine learning to self-navigate. Using electronic sensors or lightweight cameras, for example, a network of these little drones could perform tasks such as surveying confined industrial spaces to quickly identify sources of poisonous gas leaks, passing underneath a door or through debris to find survivors during a search and rescue operation, or locating infected plants in an agricultural field to stem the spread of disease.

Trivedi believes these insect-scale drones will dramatically elevate the use of various sensing and control applications due to their small dimensions, autonomous operations, and the space the drones will operate in.

The drones will only be able to carry a few sensors and a lightweight camera and will be limited in the amount of onboard data processing they can perform, due to their tiny battery and the demands each application will place on that power source. The small drones will operate in a highly dynamic environment: for example, when flying indoors, changes in lighting conditions and the movements of people must be considered in real time.

As part of this research, Trivedi will be focused on developing new hardware called visual odometry that uses computer vision to predict a drone’s location from the position, orientation, and velocity of its movement relative to its starting position—something that’s useful indoors, or when GPS is absent.

The $560,792 NSF CAREER grant, titled “Robust and Ultra-low-power Spatial Intelligence,” begins May 1 and runs through 2026.

In his five years at UIC, Trivedi has received nearly $1 million in external funding, through two NSF grants and two industry grants, one from Intel and another from Semiconductor Research Corporation. He also has been awarded more than $190,000 in internal funding through the Discovery Partners Institute. Visit Trivedi’s faculty page or his Advanced Electronics of Nano-Devices (AEON) Lab website to learn more.