Techno-Slugs Reach Across Monterey Bay

Professor Leila Takayama discusses Human-Robot Interaction
Professor Dejan Milutinovic describes the robotics engineering at UC Santa Cruz
Director of Industrial Alliances and Licensing Andrea Pesce
Drone demonstration from Cape Aerial Telepresence
James McGirk

On June 21, 2019 UC Santa Cruz Baskin School of Engineering professors Leila Takayama (computational media) and Dejan Milutinovic (electrical and computer engineering) spoke at the inaugural Monterey Bay Drone Automation & Robotics Technology (DART) Symposium. The symposium featured an unusual variety of applications.

An hour’s drive south of Santa Cruz, the City of Monterey lies within Silicon Valley’s sphere of influence, but is also home to several major defense institutions (such as the Defense Language Institute and the Naval Postgraduate School), and is a hub of oceanic research and conversation activity, and lies at the mouth of the “Salad Bowl of the World” -- Salinas Valley. The vendors and presentations reflected the industrial diversity: swarms of flying anti-missile defense drones shared the stage with vineyard skimmers, burglar chasing police drones, fog detectors, and environmental monitoring systems.

“Normally I would fly across the continent to speak at an event of this caliber,” Professor Milutinovic said. “So it was extraordinary to have this in our own backyard and to see such innovation occurring in the region.”

Dr. Becca Fenwick, director of the Environmental Information and Technology Program for the University of California’s Natural Reserve System (UC NRS), who is based at UC Santa Cruz and leads the statewide California Heartbeat Initiative (CHI) also appeared as a panelist. Banana Slug alumni were also abundant, including Chris Bley, ’87, biology, who was showcasing his Airspace Innovation drone-innovation hub located in La Selva.

Andrea Pesce, director of industry alliances and licensing at UC Santa Cruz’s Office of Research helped organize UCSC’s participation in the event. “I’m really excited about the diversity of opportunity here,” Pesce said. “This is the perfect place for drone innovation. I really enjoy the way it’s bringing people together and the possibilities for public and private partnership.”

Professor Milutinovic was on the Talent Development and Workforce Development panel. He gave a detailed presentation outlining the myriad ways UC Santa Cruz trains robotics engineers and some of the plans for the Cyber-Physical Systems Research Center. He also described his own laboratory, where he researches uncertainty control robotics and models large scale systems with desktop robotics.

Professor Leila Takayama gave a presentation on her work with human-robot interaction, describing some of the surprising research discoveries they’d made with telepresences. For example, seniors who became familiar with rolling robotic screens preferred to use them to explore the outside world rather than bring others into their space. Workplace pests can be just as pesky as rolling remote presences as they can in real life.

“This is the foundation of what we hope will be an ongoing partnership between UC Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay’s technology sector,” said Josh Metz, Economic Development Manager at the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA).

The Symposium followed a three-day long drone-training camp.