Spotlight on Young Researchers: Miguel Angel Olivares Mendez

 

Miguel Angel Olivares Mendez works on mobile robots – more specifically: he develops algorithms that enable drones to fly around and perform various tasks autonomously, such as inspecting big structures. The Spanish national came to Luxembourg in 2013 after he came across a Postdoc position that fit like a glove. Currently a Principal Investigator on an FNR PoC project at the University of Luxembourg’s SnT, Miguel’s goal is to help bridge the gap between research and industry.

When Miguel finished his PhD Robotics and Automation in his home country Spain, he and his wife made a list of potential countries they could move to for the next step. At first, Luxembourg was not on the list, but then Miguel found a Postdoc opportunity he could not resist:

“The position that Prof. Holger Voos was offering me was to have the possibility to create from scratch a section of his group related to research with drones. The mix between the big challenge to construct this research line from nothing, combined with the beautiful city, the sensation of security in the streets, how this country is great to raise kids and to be located in the center of Europe convinced us to come to Luxembourg.”

Miguel’s work revolves around mobile robots (mainly unmanned aerial vehicles) – also called drones.

My research is focused on the development of the algorithms needed to give to the drones the capabilities to fly autonomously to conduct civil applications,” Miguel explains, adding that he for example works on selecting the sensor to fit on the drone, developing the algorithm that extracts the information gathered by the drone – and using AI techniques to make the drone able to navigate on its own.

Autonomous inspection of large areas and structures

The idea of drones that can navigate an area on their own might sound very science fiction, but Miguel explains they have multiple uses in industry, such as the application he is currently working on in his FNR Proof-of-Concept (PoC) project: “Some of the civil applications I’m working on are the use of drones for the autonomous inspection of big structures, such as airplanes”.

Miguel has been involved in several projects during his time in Luxembourg, all focused around making autonomous drones ready for industry use. One collaboration with the Luxembourgish army and LuxConnect saw him working on drones to help with the surveillance of big areas, while an FNR CORE project he worked on focused on developing a safety control system for remotely human-piloted drones.

But what does it take for a drone to be able to inspect airplanes and large areas, without someone manually controlling every move? Miguel explains: “To accomplish these tasks, the drones have to be able to take off and land autonomously (even on moving vehicles), measure the environment, detect obstacles, avoid collisions, follow moving objects and generate optimal trajectories to reach the desired destination.”

“I’m absolutely impressed by Luxembourg”

So how is Miguel feeling about his choice to move to Luxembourg to continue his research career? The answer is positive, with Miguel especially appreciating the many opportunities he has had to collaborate with partners outside academia:

“I’m absolutely impressed by Luxembourg. I already met some people from the government, and many companies. I never could imagine to be seated with CEOs, CTOs, general managers from big companies and feel that they are more interested in what I was doing that me in what they are doing.

“This level of respect, confidence and trust in research is completely unique and wonderful. I was involved in projects with the Luxemburgish Army, and the Department of Defense of Luxembourg, Luxair, CargoLux, Luxconnect, Deep Space Industries, CopterSystems, VdL, MUDAM, and I talked with more than 10 companies in the last years.”

Since December 2016, Miguel has taken on major responsibilities in the research activities on mobiles robotics in the Automation & Robotics Research Group at the SnT at the University of Luxembourg, and currently also co-supervises no less than 3 PhD candidates.

Miguel was also recently featured in science.lu’s series ‘Meet the Scientists’:


Article published 24 August 2017

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Miguel Angel Olivares Mendez at work with his drones

About Spotlight on Young Researchers

Spotlight on Young Researchers is an FNR initiative to highlight early career researchers across the world who have a connection to Luxembourg. This article is the final in a series of 25 articles, which are published on a weekly basis. You can see more articles below as and when they are published.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Hussein Rappel

Hussein Rappel uses a mathematical learning approach to try to predict and simulate physical phenomena. The Iranian national came to Luxembourg in 2014 to join the team of Prof Stephane Bordas at the University of Luxembourg, where he is now in the 3rd year of his PhD in Computational Science – and sees great potential in Luxembourg as a research destination.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Dominique Santana

After completing her master’s degree, Luxembourg national Dominique Santana decided to spend time in her mother’s birth country Brazil. While there, she became intrigued by Brazil’s communities of Luxembourgish nationals and wanted to investigate further. Now in the first year of her AFR PhD at the C²DH at the University of Luxembourg, Dominique is examining the paths of Luxembourgers who emigrated to Brazil from 1920 – 1965, which has already rekindled old friendships.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Nina Hentzen

Nina Hentzen, an organic chemist working on the chemical synthesis of collagen, is fascinated by research at the interface of chemistry and biology. The Luxembourg national is in the second year of her AFR PhD at ETH Zürich – and has just been selected to attend the renowned 2017 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Alex Gansen

Alex Gansen first dabbled in research during his Masters studies in physics at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), and then decided he wanted to take on the challenge of a PhD, so the Luxembourg national returned to his home country. Alex has just submitted his thesis at the end of the 4th year of his AFR PhD in computational electromagnetics at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) in collaboration with the College of Engineering in Swansea. He sees the close links between local industry and research in Luxembourg as a great advantage for the future of research in the Grand Duchy.

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Dimitra Anastasiou

In 2015, Dimitra Anastasiou was featured in our campaign ‘Spotlight on Young Researchers’, which highlighted early-career researchers with a connection to Luxembourg. In November 2015, Dimitra moved to Luxembourg with her young family to start her prestigious Marie Curie Individual Fellowship at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST). One year on, we caught up with Dimitra!

Spotlight on Young Researchers: László Sándor

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Jose-Luis Sanchez-Lopez

Jose-Luis Sanchez-Lopez works with multirotor aerial robots – drones. Despite being early in his research career, the Spanish national’s research is already taking off, having secured him several awards at international competitions. After completing his PhD in 2017, Jose-Luis set his sights on Luxembourg, where he works as a Postdoc at the SnT at the University of Luxembourg, with the goal of giving drones enough AI that they can safely operate autonomously in a range of environments.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Amy Parrish

During her Master’s studies, Amy Parrish found her passion for research with a clinical aspect. Having come from London to Luxembourg to pursue her AFR PhD at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) in the research group of Mahesh Desai, the American national studies the bacteria that inhabit our gut, to shed light on the development of diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Michel Thill

For his part-time AFR PhD in Political Science with Ghent University’s Conflict Research Group, Michel Thill researches a little-studied subject: everyday policing practices and interactions between police and people in Bukavu, a provincial capital in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We spoke to the Luxembourg national about insatiable curiosity being a virtue for researchers; the experiences gained during his PhD; and why his research subject is important.

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