D.C. Robotics Guide

With so much technical talent and potential partnerships, the D.C. area is a hotbed for new ventures and research, and robotics is no exception. We’re pleased to introduce the first D.C. Robotics Guide, your source for robotics players in D.C.

Included entries were selected based on the following criteria: 1) Within an approximately one-hour radius of the District, and 2) Engaged in funding, facilitating, researching, and/or developing robotics technology. Source data included conference proceedings/networking, internet searches, job site postings, and domain knowledge here at Robots In DC. Something missing? Please let us know as we expand this community resource for all roboticists in D.C.

Research and Academic Labs

NIST – The National Institute of Standards and Technology has long had a role in working with industry and academic to develop advanced manufacturing robots in their Intelligent Systems Division. They’ve recently branched out to developing standards for human-robot interaction in manufacturing environments.

NRL – The Naval Research Laboratory in Southwest D.C. is home to the brand new Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research , featuring over 50,000 square feet of test environments in simulated climates. A group of AI and human-robot interaction researchers regularly work with Octavia, one of only a few Mobile, Dexterous, Social (MDS) robotic platforms in existence.

UMD Robotics Center – University of Maryland’s Robotics Center features 18 different laboratories and dozens of faculty pursuing a variety of research areas (click here for our coverage of their 2011 Robotics Day event). With strong aerospace and mechanical engineering programs, the Robotics Center is especially known for space robotics, path planning, manipulators, and microrobotics.

JHUAPL – The Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., is known for its decades of work in national security, but a group is actively working on advanced prosthetics for disabled veterans.

Federal Funding Agencies

ONR – Arlington-based Office of Naval Research is big on robotics. They’re a sponsor of several robotics student competitions and engineering faculty secure a number of research grants from various programs, including those under Code 34, or Warfighter Performance Department.

NSF – The National Science Foundation might not have the budget for DoD level research efforts but they have long funded basic research in robotics. The Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS) Division within the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) is a major funder through its various core programs, but other divisions and directorates also fund research efforts. A recent and welcome advance is more funding for interdisciplinary research, which is where much of the exciting robotics work is going on. Additionally, the National Robotics Initiative, in partnership with NASA and NIH, allocated $70 million last year to robots capable of working with people, and it’s continuing in FY13 with another cycle.

DARPA – What more can you say about DARPA and robotics? They’ve advanced autonomous car technologies with the Grand Challenge and Urban Challenge, and are moving ahead to do the same with humanoid systems with the Robotics Challenge. Recently, they’ve been big investors in Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah robot and BigDog.

K-12 Education Programs

Work in progress …

Hobbyist Groups

HacDC – As part of their microcontroller Mondays and software Thursdays, many local robot enthusiasts trek out to the HacDC lab space in Columbia Heights. Equipment includes machining tools, spare parts, and a 3D printer.

Professional Societies

AUVSI – Each year the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International hosts the enormous Unmanned Systems conference in the summer. And it’s back in DC next year after visiting Las Vegas this year. In addition to a trade magazine, the education-oriented AUVSI Foundation sponsors several robotics competitions including the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC).

R&D Firms

Unlike Pittsburgh and Boston, DC hasn’t seen a strong clustering of R&D companies around its top research university with UMD. While mostly still in Maryland, these groups have gravitated toward the metro’s red line. Coincidence? Probably.

Robotic Research, LLC – Gaithersburg-based Robotic Research sits across from the NIST campus and boasts NIST alumni as its founders. The small firm specializes in autonomy, path planning, and navigation for ground vehicles, having received several SBIR awards.

Intelligent Automation – We’ve covered Intelligent Automation before on this site, and the Rockville-based research firm has recently expanded its robotics presence in addition to their specialties in distributed intelligent systems, signal processing, and training technologies. The research firm works primarily with federal government partners through SBIRs, and a few commercial partners.

AnthroTronix – Not to be outdone by the Shady Grove side of the Red Line, research firm AnthroTronix calls Silver Spring home. Federal grants and commercial customers turn to this outfit for their prototyping, human factors, and human-machine interface expertise.

Techno-Sciences – With traditional expertise in signal processing and wireless communications for defense customers, Techno-Sciences is beginning to branch into robotics work and has funded a seminar series at the University of Maryland’s Robotics Center.

Aptima – With expertise in human factors and behavior modeling, Aptima brings a unique capability to defense customers. The Boston area-based firm is expanding into human-robot interaction and AI with a multidisciplinary focus, and their Dupont Circle office gives them an important DC footprint to interface with government program managers.

Defense Contractors

Several local divisions for large defense contractors are working on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technologies.

Rockwell Collins – With an unmanned systems group in Warrenton, VA, Rockwell Collins is developing UAV control systems and communications.

SAIC – Not much is known about their Arlington group other than a job posting looking for researchers with expertise in autonomous systems in maritime environments.

HDT Engineering Services – We’ve covered HDT at AUVSI’s Capitol Hill event and we saw a two-armed manipulator system on display at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems Conference. The engineering group in Fredericksburg, VA, is continuing their manipulator development for integration on unmanned ground vehicles.

Aurora Flight Sciences – Headquartered in Manassas with an R&D group in Cambridge, Aurora has quickly become a leader in UAVs. They have developed sophisticated products including advanced flight control and autonomy.

Know a group/company/startup in the D.C. metro area not yet listed? Let us know and we’ll work together to include it.

One thought on “D.C. Robotics Guide

  1. Pingback: Your guide to robots in DC | Robots in DC

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