SAI HEMACHANDRA VEMPRALA

I am currently a PhD candidate at the Texas A&M University. As part of my PhD program, I am a research assistant in the Unmanned Systems Lab, headed by Dr. Srikanth Saripalli, where my research focus is on autonomous robotics. My primary research deals with collaborative localization and navigation for groups of unmanned aerial vehicles in environments lacking conventional sensors such as GPS. Alongside, I have also worked on projects involving unmanned ground vehicles, humanoid robots and computer vision for intelligent systems. Part of my PhD program was at the Arizona State University, where I was a research assistant in the Autonomous Systems Research Lab, which was also under Dr. Saripalli. During my PhD years, I spent the summer of 2016 as a robotics intern in Millennium Engineering at the NASA Ames Research Center. As an intern, I worked mainly on localization and autonomous navigation for quadrotors.

Prior to my PhD, I received my Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Arizona State University in 2013. During these years, I was part of the Extreme Environment Robotics Lab at ASU, headed by the late Dr. Alberto Behar. As part of EERL, I helped develop software and firmware for the Micro Subglacial Lake Exploration Device (MSLED), an underwater robot for exploring subglacial lakes in Antarctica that was deployed as part of the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) expedition. Parallelly, I was involved in developing hardware and software for a remote volcano monitoring system named BENTO, for which project I was also the team lead. During my master's, I also worked as a Firmware Engineering Intern at the Intel Corporation during the summer of 2013: where I designed low level firmware for the Intel's BioSport headset.

My undergraduate degree was in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the JNTU Hyderabad, India, from which I graduated in 2011. During my undergraduate program, I worked on novel power flow algorithms and computational analysis for electrical distribution systems.  

Research and Work Experience

  • Research Assistant
    Jan 2017 - present Unmanned Systems Lab, Texas A&M University

    - Primarily working on collaborative localization and navigation for micro aerial vehicles using vision.

  • Research Assistant
    Jan 2013 - Dec 2016 Autonomous Systems Laboratory, ASU

    - Primary research focused on autonomous navigation of unmanned vehicles, GPS denied localization and planning for micro aerial vehicles, as well as motion planning for humanoid robots.
    - Hands-on experience in sensor fusion, ROS based middleware development, embedded systems, various commercial UAV platforms

  • Graduate Intern
    May 2016 - Aug 2016 Millennium Engineering and Integration

    - Developed the software architecture for sensing and communication onboard a quadrotor UAV and developed a framework for estimation and navigation in GPS denied environments.
    - Worked on developing a 6DOF Simulink model for simulation of a fixed wing UAV.
    - Implemented attitude stabilization on open source autopilot hardware for an experimental unmanned aircraft.

  • Software Engineer Intern
    Jun 2016 - Aug 2016 Koolock Inc.

    Developed image processing software for analyzing multispectral satellite images.

  • Autonomous Systems Engineer
    Apr 2015 - Dec 2015 Indigo Drones, Costa Rica

    Assisted with mission planning, sensor fusion and data analysis for UAVs with imaging sensors for plant health monitoring in large pineapple fields in Costa Rica.

  • Research Aide
    May 2012 - Dec 2013 Extreme Environment Robotics Laboratory, ASU

    - Developed high level ground station software and embedded firmware for an underwater robot (MSLED).
    - Designed gas, weather and seismic sensing systems and developed embedded firmware as well as efficient data transmission protocols for sensing and reporting volcanic and seismic activity through satellite communication.

  • Graduate Intern
    Jun 2013 - Aug 2013 Intel Corporation

    - Designed embedded firmware for the biometric headset BioSport.
    - Involved in hardware design, sensor fusion and signal processing algorithms for Biosport.

Education

  • Texas A&M University (previously at Arizona State University) USA
    2014 - present Doctor of Philosophy

    PhD in Systems Engineering

  • Arizona State University, USA
    2012 - 2013 Master of Science

    MS in Electrical Engineering

  • Guru Nanak Engineering College, India
    2007 - 2011 Bachelor of Technology

    B.Tech. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Collaborative Localization for Multirotor Vehicles

I am currently working on developing a collaborative localization pipeline that is applicable for two or more multirotor vehicles with a monocular camera as the only sensor required on each vehicle. Feature detection and matching are performed between the individual views, thus allowing for reconstruction of the surrounding environment which is then used for localizing the moving vehicles within a group. I am also working on the possibility of GPU acceleration for the feature detection and matching, thus enabling near-real time implementation speed.


Ars Robotica: Robots in Theater

A collaboration between artists, theater performers and roboticists: Ars Robotica seeks to understand the fluidity and expressiveness of human movement and the possibility of its reproduction by robotic platforms. Using the Rethink Robotics Baxter as a test platform, we are investigating the possibility of defining and achieving human-like movement. We obtain training data from human performers through various modes of sensing ranging from simple devices such as a Microsoft Kinect to high speed precise tracking setups such as a 12 camera Optitrack system; which we then use to define a vocabulary of human motion, which allows for expressing complex movements as a temporal combination of primitives: thus helping create a framework for autonomous interpretation and expression of human-like motion through Baxter.


Micro Subglacial Lake Exploration Device

As part of a team at the Extreme Environment Robotics Laboratory, I worked on the development of onboard firmware and ground station software for a subglacial lake and aquatic exploration instrument called MSLED. MSLED consists of a submersible mothership/explorer combination, and uses MEMS sensor and imaging technologies to investigate deep remote and chemically challenging aquatic environments. MSLED was deployed successfully twice in Lake McMurdo, Antarctica as part of the WISSARD program, while WISSARD played a crucial role in the discovery of subglacial life under the Antarctic ice.


BENTO Volcano Monitor

I was the team lead for hardware and software design of expendable "volcanic monitor" capsules which monitor and transmit data about rapidly evolving volcanic conditions. The monitors are equipped with a number of sensors (seismic, gas, temperature etc.) and use a minimal data packaging and transmission protocol using the Iridium satellite modems that allows for real time compilation and dissemination of scientific data. Volcano monitors were deployed in Nicaragua, Italy, Iceland and Greenland.

Papers

Posters

  • Sai Vemprala, Ian Shelanskey, Matthew Ragan, Lance Gharavi, Srikanth Saripalli. Ars Robotica: A Movement Framework for Robots in Theater. Workshop on Artistically Skilled Robots. Daejeon, Korea, 2016.
  • Sai Vemprala, Srikanth Saripalli. Autonomous Exploration using UAVs. AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence 2016. Phoenix, AZ, February 2016.

Patents

  • US 20170034618 A1: System and method for data transmission and power supply capability over an audio jack for mobile devices; Indira Negi, Lakshman Krishnamurthy, Brian K. Vogel, Darren S. Crews, Sai H. Vemprala, Xiaochao Yang, Howard D. Millett, Alexander Essaian, Alanson P. Sample (Intel Corp.)
  • US 20160192039 A1: System and method for device action and configuration based on user context detection from sensors in peripheral devices ; Indira Negi, Lakshman Krishnamurthy, Fuad Al-Amin, Xiaochao Yang, Brian K. Vogel, Jun Li, Alexander Essaian, Sai H. Vemprala, Donnie H. Kim, Lama Nachman, Haibin Liu (Intel Corp.)

Other presentations

  • Sai Vemprala, Srikanth Saripalli. Vision based MAV Swarms in a Photorealistic Simulation Framework. 1st International Symposium on Aerial Robotics, PA, USA, 2017.
  • Andres Mora, Sai Vemprala, Adrian Carrio, Srikanth Saripalli. Flight performance assessment of land surveying trajectories for multiple UAV platforms. Workshop on Research, Education and Development of Unmanned Aerial Systems, RED-UAS 2015. Cancun, Mexico, 2015.
  • Lance Gharavi, Srikanth Saripalli, Sai Vemprala, Matthew Ragan, Ian Shelanskey. Ars Robotica. Exemplar project at the a2ru National Conference 2015.
  • Alberto Behar, Sai Vemprala. BENTO: Volcanic monitoring. Deep Carbon Observatory Sandpit Workshop on Gas Instrumentation. Sicily, Italy, 2013.

Office Address

ENPH Rm 432, 180 Spence St, College Station, TX - 77840

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Email

svemprala (at) tamu [dot] edu

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