Prof. Sertac Karaman

Class of 1948 Career Development Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Director, Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS)

Primary DLC

Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

MIT Room: 32-D734

Areas of Interest and Expertise

Autonomous Robotic Systems
Statistical Mechanics

Research Summary

Professor Karaman's primary research interests lie in the broad area of analysis, design, and optimization of provably-correct computationally-efficient planning and control algorithms for safety-critical cyber-physical systems, with a large emphasis on robotics applications. Work usually involves a rigorous theoretical analysis that is tightly coupled with implementation and experimental validation on a variety of robotic platforms.
Over the past four years, Karaman has worked on numerous different projects with topics ranging from motion planning to robust control theory and applications ranging from ground robotics to nano-imaging. Currently, he is very engaged with the rigorous analysis of fundamental properties of sampling-based motion planning algorithms. Karaman is also interested in extending the application domain of these algorithms to novel directions such as motion planning with complex task specifications, differential games, stochastic optimal control, and optimal estimation. Most recently, he has been working on the analysis of high-performance navigation through a randomly-generated cluttered environment, motivated by birds’ flight through a dense forest. 

Anytime sampling-based algorithms for control problems
Anytime sampling-based algorithms with suitable convergence guarantees, such as the RRT*, hold the potential to become a practical solution to many problems in robotics and control theory in a unifying way.

High-speed navigation in cluttered environments

On one hand, roboticists have long been working on agile robotic vehicles that can quickly navigate through cluttered environments. On the other hand, biologists have been trying to understand how some birds manage to fly through dense forests at amazingly high speeds. For instance, a goshawk can reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour while flying through woodlands, according to a BBC documentary. Motivated by these exciting applications in robotics and biology, we analyze high-speed navigation through clutter from a theoretical standpoint by establishing novel connections with statistical physics.

Recent Work

  • Video

    2020 Autonomy Day 1 - Sertac Karaman

    April 8, 2020Conference Video Duration: 27:49

    As the technology for autonomous vehicles matures, the broad reach of the technology comes to focus, together with the new challenges and the shifting opportunities. The car that can drive itself under any condition better than any human driver - the holy-grail of autonomous vehicles - may not be as close as once thought. However, it is becoming clear that other opportunities with tremendous economic and social impact may be well within reach. In fact, fielding autonomous vehicles on the ground, in the air, on the water and even in space may transform a number of existing industries and create new ones. In this talk, we discuss three emerging technologies that will allow autonomous vehicles to interact with humans, rapidly react to their environment, and showcase complex autonomy even in miniature form factors, respectively. We also briefly discuss opportunities in business and in teaching of autonomous vehicles.