Aberystwyth University

Aberystwyth University

Department of Computer Science

Aberystwyth, UK


Aberystwyth University (AU) was established in 1872 by a small group lead by Hugh Owen. Its campus is located on Penglais hill, a finely landscaped site enjoying spectacular views over the town of Aberystwyth and the sea. The university is, for the third year running, the best university in the UK for student satisfaction according to The Times Good University Guide 2010. It has over 7,000 registered students, including over 1,100 postgraduates across eighteen academic departments.

Image by ThisIsDuffy published under the Creative Commons Attribution License
Image by ThisIsDuffy
published under the Creative Commons Attribution License

The Computer Science department at Aberystwyth is long established but continues to move with the times. There are currently 60 teaching, research and support staff and about 450 undergraduate students. Research in the department is motivated by the needs of industry, business and government; and it actively looks for opportunities for technology transfer. The department believes that collaboration in research is essential and collaborates with industry, with government, and with other academic institutions, on a national and international level.

Image by behnisch published under the Creative Commons Attribution License
Image by behnisch
published under the Creative Commons Attribution License

The Space and Planetary Robotics Group has recently created a new Planetary Analogue Terrain laboratory (PATLab). The PATLab is a 100 m^2 facility which includes 45 m^2 of DLR Mars Soil Simulant-D based terrain. The terrain area supports advanced rover and manipulator motion tracking equipment, the latest operator/robot interaction and visualisation equipment, and a new “Concept E” rover chassis with a mounted manipulator, and associated sensors and instruments including a PanCam emulator device.

AU Rover
AU Rover

As well as the PATLab, AU has built a new £10.4M Visualisation Centre on campus. Amongst the facilities the centre has to offer are: a domed 3-D reality theatre; immersive and interactive projection produced with Fakespace Powerwall displays, powered by Silicon Graphics Inc Prism Extreme high powered computing equipment for processing large data sets; Sun Microsystems high powered computing equipment, and workstations for a personal virtual reality experience; and fully managed facilities including offices, workshops, and workstations for individuals and groups of visualisation users.

The ProViScout team at Aberystwyth will provide the rover and aerobot platform and associated infrastructure for the project’s field trials. We will also be providing a multispectral imaging capability (both rover and aerobot-based) for mineralogical mapping, and an omni-directional vision system intended primarily to aid navigation, but which will also have some science target analysis capability.

Team Members



Aberystwyth_5 Professor Dave Barnes

Professor Barnes has been active in robotics research for over 25 years, and a PI on numerous projects funded by the EPSRC, STFC, Royal Society, and European projects including ESA. His research interests include intelligent computing methods for autonomous robot enabled planetary science, and novel computer vision methods for increased planetary science return.

He is a member of the ESA ExoMars rover team. ExoMars is scheduled for launch in 2018. His responsibilities include PanCam modelling, simulation, image processing, and data visualisation; cameras calibration; and shape from shading methods for high fidelity DTM generation.

He was involved with a number of activities for the Beagle 2 Mars Lander mission, which was planned to arrive on December 25, 2003. He was responsible for the simulation and calibration of the robotic ARM, and developing ARM ground command software tools for mission planning purposes whilst the lander was on the Martian surface.

He is a member of the STFC UK Aurora Advisory Committee (AurAC). Aurora is the European Space Agency programme focused initially upon Mars robotic missions which may lead to human missions to Mars circa 2033.

For more information, visit Professor Barnes’ home page.

AU_laurence_tyler Dr Laurence Tyler

Dr Tyler received his PhD in Artificial Intelligence from De Montfort University Leicester UK having previously obtained an Honours degree in Computing and Information Systems from the University of Manchester UK, and an MSc degree with distinction in Human-Computer Systems, also from De Montfort University. He has held the position of Senior Systems Administrator/Programmer for the UK Swift Science Data Centre. Swift is a joint NASA/UK/Italian space mission to study gamma-ray bursts using an autonomously targeting satellite observatory.

Dr. Tyler is currently a Research Associate at Aberystwyth University working as part of the AU ExoMars team, mainly working in the areas of PanCam image data processing and visualisation, multi- and hyper-spectral imaging, aerial platform data acquisition and autonomous robot enabled science sample acquisition.

AU_mark_neal Dr Mark Neal

Dr Mark Neal is a Senior Lecturer and head of the Intelligent Robotics Group at Aberystwyth University. His particular research interests include sailing robots, immuno-neuro-endocrine control and long-lived robots. His current projects in addition to PRoViScout include “iKAPP: an intelligent kite aerial photography platform” and “Integrating Artificial Immune, Neural and Endocrine Systems in Automous Sailing Robots”.

AU_fred_labrosse Dr Fred Labrosse

Dr Fred Labrosse received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from École Polytechnique, Montréal, Canada where he worked in the mining automation area. He currently is a lecturer in both the Intelligent Robotics Group and the Vision, Graphics and Visualisation Group at Aberystwyth University. His research interests include appearance-based metric-less robot navigation; data acquisition in real, difficult environments; field robotics; remote-sensing; image-based graphics; image (manifold) modell