Hub Director

Professor Yvan Petillot is Professor of Robotics and Computer Vision and the joint academic lead for the National Robotarium at Heriot-Watt University. He has pioneered and commercialised new algorithms and robotics solutions in the maritime domain over the last 20 years. He has published over 200 publications (citation 6000, h-index 39). A former Royal Society Industry Fellow, he currently chairs the Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering (SRPe) Robotics theme.

Prof. Yvan Petillot

Yvan specialises in robotics and sensing and is an expert in autonomous systems, image analysis and control applied to the maritime domain. He has made major contributions in underwater sensing, navigation and autonomy. He has also worked closely with MOD and DSTL on defense related projects and secured a number of EPSRC projects in the robotics and signal processing areas. In 2006 he created the first European Competition in Underwater Robotics for autonomous systems, with support from EPSRC and MOD and has led this effort in collaboration with the NATO Undersea Research Centre.

He was the co-director of the EPSRC/DSTL funded £4.5M UK Defense Research Centre in Signal Processing from 2013 to 2018. He has a long history of successful collaborations with other leading researchers in Europe through a number of European Research Projects (ALIVE, Autotracker, Amason, 2005, FreeSubNet 2008, Trident, 2010, Eurathlon 2012, EUMR 2018, Metric 2019, DeepField 2020) totalling over £1.5M of research funding. Professor Petillot has a track record in technology transfer and engagement with industry. He co-founded SeeByte Ltd in 2001 and as CTO led early technology development.


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Former Hub Director (2017-2021)

Professor David Lane CBE FREng FRSE is a scientist, engineer, innovator and investor in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, and a strategic Board level advisor to Governments, companies and research organisations.

David lane

He is Professor Emeritus & Founding Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, a £100M joint venture between Heriot-Watt & Edinburgh Universities performing internationally excellent Robotics and AI research and innovation translation across sectors by training over 100 innovation-ready PhD students.

A former offshore diver/maintainer with Vickers Oceanics (now Subsea7), Development Engineer (Ferranti Ltd now Leonardo), and founding startup-to-scale up CEO (SeeByte Ltd/Inc) he has significant international experience organising and running startup companies and major multi-party research and innovation projects to achieve internationally excellent research outcomes that also capture commercial value from top science. In a 35-year career he has made leading international contributions engineering advanced cognition into unmanned and autonomous systems (control, navigation, localisation and mapping, planning, world modelling, learning, operator interaction, system architectures) including development of the world’s first autonomous vehicles for pipeline and offshore platform inspection. This also includes analytics for predictive fault detection and diagnosis in condition based maintenance and through life support of remote assets (e.g. offshore wind farms, railways, subsea oil and gas infrastructure). More recently he has worked to develop a range of bio-inspired sensing and locomotion systems, including dolphin inspired underwater sonar, flexible and soft continuum actuation methods and emotionally engaging robotic systems as the basis for cognitive companions.

From 1995 he established Heriot-Watt’s Ocean Systems Laboratory with an international reputation in marine robotics, publishing nearly 300 cited publications in top international journals and conferences, co-ordinating a series of major EU and EPSRC projects including AMADEUS, AMASON, AUTOTRACKER, PANDORA. From 2001-2010 he founded & led SeeByte Ltd/Inc (Edinburgh, San Diego) to a multi-million $ UK/US company in defence & offshore markets, winning the 2011 Praxis Unico Business Impact Achieved Award & 2013 Scottish Digital Technology Award for International Growth10 before US exit to Battelle. In 2016 he was appointed Chairman of Consequential Robotics Ltd (London, Bristol), in 2017 non-executive director for WiSub (Bergen) and in 2018 Chairman of InovoRobotics Ltd (London, Hong Kong). He sits on the advisory boards of Robotical Ltd (Edinburgh) and Karakuri Ltd (London). In 2013/4 he led development of the UK’s national robotics innovation strategy RAS2020, which has influenced over £400M of UK Govt investments and £150M of industrial gearing to date as well as the new UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

David leads development of a UK National Robotics Enterprise and Robotics Growth Partnership with the UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation and BEIS, and advises on developing UK as a Platform for Innovation. From 2014-2016 he was a Director of euRobotics aisbl18 shaping the SPARC €700M EU Horizon2020 Robotics public-private partnership. In 2016 he led Lloyds Register Foundation Foresight Review of Robotics and Autonomous Systems seeding the £12m Assuring Autonomy International Programme. He sits on the Advisory Board of the newly formed 8 Great Technologies Venture Fund, BAe Systems Corporate Foresight Panel, the UK Atomic Energy Authority Programme Advisory Committee, the InnovateUK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Robotics and AI Advisory group, the Department for Transport Maritime 2050 steering group and the Scientific Advisory Board of the French Oceanographic Fleet. He chairs and mentors in the Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship Schemes, is a Lloyds Register Foundation A100 Ambassador and is Overseas Famous Scholar and Guest Professor at Shenyang Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences Key State Laboratory for Robotics and Zhejiang Ocean University.

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