Davide Scaramuzza, PhD

University of Zurich
Professor and Director of the Robotics and Perception Group

Human-Level Performance with Autonomous Vision-based Drones


Autonomous drones play a crucial role in inspection, agriculture, logistics, and search-and-rescue missions and promise to increase productivity by a factor of 10. However, they still lag behind human pilots in speed, versatility, and robustness. What does it take to fly autonomous drones as agile as or even better than human pilots? Autonomous, agile navigation through unknown, GPS-denied environments poses several challenges for robotics research regarding perception, learning, planning, and control. In this talk, I will show how the combination of model-based and machine-learning methods, united with the power of new, low-latency sensors, such as event cameras, can allow drones to achieve unprecedented speed and robustness by relying solely on onboard computing. This can result in better productivity and safety of future autonomous aircraft.

Biography of the speaker

Davide Scaramuzza is a Professor of Robotics and Perception at the University of Zurich. He did his Ph.D. at ETH Zurich, a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania, and was a visiting professor at Stanford University. His research focuses on autonomous, agile microdrone navigation using standard and event-based cameras. He pioneered autonomous, vision-based navigation of drones, which inspired the navigation algorithm of the NASA Mars helicopter and many drone companies. He made major contributions to visual-inertial state estimation, vision-based agile navigation of microdrones, and low-latency, robust perception with event cameras, which were transferred to many products, from drones to automobiles, cameras, AR/VR headsets, and mobile devices. In 2022, his team demonstrated that an AI-controlled, vision-based drone could outperform the world champions of drone racing, a result that was published in Nature. He serves as a consultant for the United Nations on disaster response and disarmament. He won many awards, such as a European-Research-Council Consolidator Grant, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award, a Google Research Award, two NASA TechBrief Awards, and many paper awards. In 2015, he co-founded Zurich-Eye, today Meta Zurich, which developed the world-leading virtual-reality headset: Meta Quest. In 2020, he co-founded SUIND, which builds autonomous drones for precision agriculture. Many aspects of his research have been featured in the media, such as The New York Times, The Economist, and Forbes.