ISAE-SUPAERO students take part in the world’s most prestigious robotics conference

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• Krishna Murali and Elena Ponce Moreno are second-year students in the Master of Aerospace Engineering program at ISAE-SUPAERO.
• They are researching the Mavion, a drone developed at the Institute that takes off vertically, then flies like an airplane.
• Their paper on optimizing the transition from vertical to horizontal flight has been selected for ICRA, the world’s most prestigious robotics conference.

"It’s exceptional. And even more so for Master’s students! Usually, it’s Ph.D. students who are selected." Leandro Lustosa, associate professor of drone guidance, navigation and control, has nothing but praise for two of his students. Krishna Murali and Elena Ponce Moreno, both in their 2nd year of the Master of Aerospace Engineering (MAE) program at ISAE-SUPAERO, will be flying off to Yokohama, Japan, in May, to present their research topic at ICRA, one of the two most prestigious robotics conferences in the world.

Elena Ponce Moreno and Krishna Murali
Elena (l.) and Krishna at the "Volière", where they researched the Mavion drone. /©ISAE-SUPAERO

For their second-year research topic, Krishna and Elena turned their attention to the Mavion. This drone, developed at ISAE-SUPAERO, is unique in that it can fly horizontally, like an airplane, after taking off vertically like a conventional drone. "This makes it more efficient and faster, and widens its range of action," notes Professor Lustosa, who himself wrote a thesis on the subject at ISAE-SUPAERO.

Where aeronautics meets robotics

Krishna Murali and Elena Ponce Moreno are interested in the Mavion’s flight dynamics, i.e. the application of the laws of mechanics to the study of the drone’s trajectories, stability and control. "The aim of our research is to make the transition from vertical to horizontal flight smoother and more reliable," explains Elena.

This topic, at the crossroads of aeronautics and robotics, is the subject of the paper they have submitted to ICRA and will be presenting at the conference. "We didn’t think it would be accepted. Luckily, our professor believed in it and encouraged us!" Eager to present their research in front of the world’s robotics experts, they are also excited to bring an aeronautics project to ICRA. "Robotics and aeronautics have traditionally been separate fields," notes Leandro Lustosa, "and the development of drones is bringing them together."

A milestone in their careers

Krishna Murali and Elena Ponce Moreno also see their participation in ICRA as an important step in their studies and future careers. "For me, who wants to pursue a Ph.D. in a similar field, it’s exciting," says Krishna. "It’s going to be inspiring," adds Elena.

Both will be "preparing a lot", but also see the conference as "an opportunity to learn from the people" they will meet. They are also aware of the "great responsibility" they bear as women, in a rather male-dominated academic environment. "We hope that other female students will dare to apply, and we want to make them aware that it’s possible!"

Watch the video presentation of Krishna Murali and Elena Ponce-Moreno’s work

Who are they?

Krishna Murali joined ISAE-SUPAERO’s Master of Aerospace Engineering (MAE) program after completing a Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in her native India. Passionate about mathematics and physics, she saw in the MAE the opportunity "to study in a world-renowned training program in Toulouse, at the heart of European aerospace engineering". A drone enthusiast, Krishna saw the Mavion research topic as "an opportunity to learn a lot about aerospace control and, more specifically, unconventional control methods". It was also an opportunity to put into practice the control theories studied during her previous studies, and to learn more about drone software.

Elena Ponce Moreno, who "grew up surrounded by engineers", chose aeronautics because of "its intricate challenges" and "the fascination with the concept of flying". Equally passionate about space and IT, she joined the MAE at ISAE-SUPAERO to "specialize" after studying Aerospace Engineering at the University Carlos III of Madrid. She saw her research topic around the Mavion as "a way of participating in a tangible project" and as an opportunity to work with drones. The project also enabled her "to experiment with a project in real research conditions, within a laboratory". Namely, the IONLAB, part of ISAE-SUPAERO’s Department of Aerospace Vehicles Design and Control (DCAS).

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