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NSERC Canadian Robotics Network

Challenge

The NSERC Canadian Robotics Network (NCRN) is a national partnership to advance mobile robot systems and human-robot interaction technologies by using learning-based approaches to achieve new levels of performance, in terms of robustness and autonomy, in complex environments. We are the key Canadian stakeholders in robotics: academic researchers and trainees, companies and government organizations, and we target a range of industrial and scientific application domains of strategic interest to Canada. NCRN will accelerate research progress and exploit it in areas of national importance and opportunity. NCRN is a Category B Strategic Network that builds upon the highly successful This link will take you to another Web site NSERC Canadian Field Robotics Network (NCFRN), with a broader mandate, wider domain of applications, and new, more diverse researchers and partners.

Network Structure

The NCRN provides a national framework for 11 research groups from 8 Canadian universities as well as 9 industrial partners and 3 government agencies, while also engaging 5 international partners. Research areas are divided into two themes, each led by an internationally recognized Canadian researcher. Most of the NCRN academic researchers and industrial partners belong to both themes, allowing for extensive connections and collaborations across them. The NCRN administration is based at McGill University. The management structure of the network is comprised of a board of directors, a steering and scientific review committee, and a technology transfer and targeted research committee.

Research Objectives and Outcomes

Within the NCRN we have identified autonomous navigation and planning, in the context of multi-agent interactions (of robots and with humans), as key and tightly integrated research   areas in robotics where Canada has outstanding international strength. Autonomous navigation focuses on the capabilities of individual intelligent mobile robots in complex environments, while multiagent interaction considers systems composed of machines and humans working together. We apply machine learning, an area within which we have world-class expertise, as a key enabling technology across both of these areas. These research foci have broad impact, require system level interdisciplinary expertise, and are of immediate relevance to our industrial partners. To make progress in these directions, the network’s research is organized along the following two themes:

  • Theme 1: Interactive autonomy, which enables human operators to co-exist and collaborate with a wide range of realistic robotic systems.
  • Theme 2: Resilient autonomy, which expands purely autonomous behaviour to be robust enough for safe deployment in extreme environments for long-term missions.

The network’s research agenda is driven by six distinct commercially viable motivating applications: UAV delivery, autonomous driving, automated mine inspection, forestry automation, collaborative assembly and service robotics.
NCRN is Canada's only national-scale robotics research funding organization. Our partners represent key sectors aligned to provide industrial leadership and funding. A critical component of the NCRN research plan is the annual robot trials, where robot systems developed by both the academic and industrial partners can be observed and assessed in realistic operational environments. Robotics often requires complex multi-layered systems constructed by partnerships. Our network addresses the need for research and training across research groups, departments, and industries and integrates collaborative work with international partnerships.