drone flying

Autonomous Systems

Duke MEMS researchers are at work on new control, optimization, learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) methods for autonomous dynamical systems that can make independent intelligent decisions and learn in uncertain, unstructured, and unpredictable environments. We design autonomous systems that span robotics, cyber-physical systems, internet of things, and medicine.

Duke students hold a robotic vehicle

Research Areas

  • Autonomous medical devices and systems
  • Control theory and optimization
  • Cyber-physical systems
  • Human-autonomy systems
  • Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Networked and distributed systems
  • Robotics, autonomous systems, surgical robotics
  • Nonlinear dynamics and systems

Major Centers & Initiatives

Externally funded research centers in autonomy which Duke leads, or is a partner, include:

Related Study Opportunities

PhD

Specializations include:

Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng)

Concentrations include:

A dragonfly-shaped robot lit up in neon colors on a black background

Soft Robotic Dragonfly Signals Environmental Disruptions

Electronics-free DraBot uses air pressure, microarchitectures and self-healing hydrogels to watch for changes in pH, temperature and oil

A tangled mess of blue lines criss-crossing a 3D graphical space with one red line zig-zagging through it

Coordinating Complex Behaviors Between Hundreds of Robots

A new approach to designing motion plans for multiple robots grows “trees” in the search space to solve complex problems in a fraction of the time

astronaut after having blood drawn from arm

NASA Climbs Aboard with Support for Robot Project

The robot can autonomously place an IV in an astronaut’s arm for crewed space missions and to improve access to healthcare on Earth.

Associated Faculty

Leila Bridgeman

Leila Bridgeman

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Robust and optimal control, linear matrix inequalities (LMIs), model predictive control (MPC), delayed systems, input-output stability, passivity.

Brian Mann

Brian Mann

Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Nonlinear dynamics and vibration utilizing analytical, numerical, and experimental techniques. Fundamental investigations of phenomenon and application areas where dynamical systems theory plays an important role.

Xiaoyue Ni

Xiaoyue Ni

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Flexible electronics, precision measurement, non-destructive testing, deformation physics of random media, mechanical metamaterials, robotic materials and smart structures, machine learning

Rebecca Simmons

Rebecca Simmons

Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Lawrence N. Virgin

Lawrence N. Virgin

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Study of the behavior of nonlinear dynamical systems, including the investigation of the fundamental nature of nonlinear systems based on a mathematical description of their underlying equations of motion and the application of recent results from nonlinear dynamical systems...

Michael Zavlanos

Michael Zavlanos

Yoh Family Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Research Interests: Control theory, optimization, and learning; in particular, robotics and autonomous systems, networked and distributed control systems, and cyber-physical systems.

Daniel Buckland

Daniel Buckland

Assistant Professor of Surgery

Research Interests: Medical device development, acute care technology, space medicine, remote medicine, autonomous medical devices.

Patrick James Codd

Patrick James Codd

Associate Professor of Neurosurgery

Research Interests: Minimally invasive neurosurgical device development and neurosurgical robotics.

Mary "Missy" Cummings

Mary "Missy" Cummings

Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Research Interests: Human-unmanned vehicle interaction, human-autonomous system collaboration, human-systems engineering, public policy implications of unmanned vehicles, and the ethical and social impact of technology.

Henri P. Gavin

Henri P. Gavin

Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Research Interests: Structural dynamics, earthquake engineering, seismic hazard mitigation for building contents, nonlinear dynamics, system identification, optimal control with application to systems with controllable damping.