Leonardo Drone Contest continues

Gabriele Roggi is the PhD student who is participating in challenge from Leonardo on behalf of the Politecnico di Milano


The Leonardo Drone Contest is an open innovation project designed and developed by Leonardo S.p.A, in collaboration with six Italian universities, including the Politecnico di Milano, to promote the development of Artificial Intelligence in Italy as applied to the field of unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones.

The aim of the project is to foster the creation of an “ecosystem” with the involvement and combined skills and resources of large companies, universities, SMEs, spin-offs and startups from across Italy.  

In particular, Leonardo is supporting the activities of six PhD students, one per university, who will - over the course of three years - work to develop an autonomous piloting system for drones, pooling the resources and knowledge of the universities and companies involved. The six PhD students, along with their teams, will meet to discuss their progress every year in a scientific symposium, as well as a competition between them.

The first round of the Leonardo Drone Contest was presented on 1 July, during a fully digital symposium in which technology and drones were discussed. An event that was part of a process started in 2019, which will see a series of three annual rounds take place, each with increasing levels of complexity.

The symposium featured talks from Laurent Sissmann and Roberto Cingolani from Leonardo, as well as representatives from the six Italian universities. The Politecnico di Milano was represented by Prof. Marco Lovera, from our Department of Aerospace Science and Technology, and Gabriele Roggi, the PhD student who received the scholarship funded by Leonardo. Together, they presented the team working on the project alongside them – Matteo Matteucci (Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering) as co-advisor, Simone Mentasti, Mattia Giurato – and the technological developments that they have achieved thus far, and that they will put into action for the first competition, due to be held in September.

But let’s get to know Gabriele Roggi and the research project he is participating in a little better.

Gabriele obtained his degree in Aeronautical Engineering, with a thesis focused on his efforts to fly a multi-rotor drone through vision.

During the lockdown period, the team concentrated on developing a simulator, managing to faithfully replicate the environment of the competition. The next steps will involve developing a tracking algorithm, with a particular focus on motion planning and collision avoidance.

Gabriele’s PhD focuses on the development of autonomous guidance, navigation and control (GNC) capabilities for drones. This is a technical obstacle that must be overcome in order to enable a number of civil and military applications involving indoor activities in partially or completely unknown environments. In recent years, there has been a great deal of work done in the mobile robotics community, but achieving objectives such as these for aircraft presents new scientific and technological challenges, mainly regarding the development of systematic methods and tools for designing the on-board autonomy functions.

The aims of this research are the integration of methods and techniques, including vision and vision-based navigation; visual/inertial integration; autonomous planning and replanning with constraints; learning methods for both navigation and planning; the formulation of theoretical and experimental approaches to studying new autonomous functions; hardware-software integration with a view to aerial applications; the development of verification and validation technologies for autonomy through the use of systematic methods for the design of realistic reference scenarios.

The next event is planned for 18 September in Turin, with the challenge that will mark the end of the first year of the Leonardo Drone Contest!

For more information about the Leonardo Drone Contest:
Leonardo website
To view the videos from the symposium