Age of Drones: How Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are changing our world

Dean's Lecture

Woodward Conference Centre,
185 Pelham Street, Carlton

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) offer the potential for much greater information retrieval over distributed settings than ever before. This potential is already seeing significant positive outcomes across a wide range of application domains.

Engineers are harnessing UAV capability to collect visual and thermal data over much wider areas and at much greater precision than available previously. With appropriate data analytics this information is helping farmers implement precision agriculture solutions that manage their crops and livestock, leading to water savings and improved crop yields.

By removing the need to have humans in dangerous situations, UAVs also offer significant potential in areas such as disaster management and recovery.

The next frontier of UAV applications will consider how best to utilise large numbers of vehicles concurrently. As such, the unmanned systems will need to coordinate amongst themselves and with humans in effective teams that accomplish a shared task, despite the individual differences that may arise between team members and the unpredictability of the encountered scenarios.

This panel will examine the wide range of drone applications and the cutting-edge cross-disciplinary UAV research currently underway at the University of Melbourne.

The speakers will also discuss the technological possibilities and limitations of drones, as well as the ethical and legal considerations of working with UAVs and how these needs can be balanced with the benefits to the environment and society that drones may offer.

The panel:

Dr Airlie Chapman

Dr Airlie Chapman

Mechanical Engineering, University of Melbourne

Dr Chapman’s research interests are networked dynamic systems and graph theory with applications to robotics and aerospace systems. She has recently authored the book “Semi-Autonomous Networks” published by Springer in 2015. She is currently a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

Dr Chapman received the Ph.D. degree from the William E. Boeing Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at the University of Washington, Seattle in 2013. Dr. Chapman was awarded the College of Engineering Dean’s Fellowship at the University of Washington and is a two-time recipient of the Amelia Earhart Fellowship.


Professor Chris Manzie

Professor Chris Manzie

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Melbourne

Professor Manzie is currently the Head of Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne, and also the Director of the Melbourne Information, Decision and Autonomous Systems (MIDAS) Laboratory, which includes academics from multiple faculties including Engineering, Science and Law. Over the period 2003-2016, he was an academic in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, with responsibilities including Assistant Dean with the portfolio of Research Training (2011-2017), and Mechatronics Program Director (2009-2016).


Dr Ranjith Rajasekharan Unnithan

Dr Ranjith Rajasekharan Unnithan

Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Melbourne

Dr Unnithan is a Research Group Leader and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at University of Melbourne. His research areas span CMOS image sensors, drones based sensors and applications, electronic sensors for biomedical applications, thermal image cameras, and nanophotonic engineering.

He received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cambridge in 2011. He joined the University of Melbourne as a lecturer in 2014.

Dr Unnithan is Co-founder and Director of Sensor Research, Hort-Eye Ltd, precision agriculture drone sensing company founded by a team from the University of Melbourne and aligned in partnership with XM2, a major drone equipment and services company.


Dr Jake Goldenfein

Dr Jake Goldenfein

Business and Law, Swinburne University of Technology

Dr Goldenfein’s research at Swinburne University of Technology addresses the intersection of law and technology. He is currently exploring automation from a legal theoretical perspective, seeking to understand how the use of artificial intelligence and automated decision making affects processes of governance and the nature of law. He is also interested in distributed ledger technologies (block chains) and smart contracts and the ways in which new forms of registry systems might affect the administration of intellectual property regimes, housing systems, and governance more broadly. His doctoral work explored how law might address automated state surveillance and profiling.

Dr Goldenfein’s recent publications have explored: the relationship between blockchain platforms and the public domain, the significance of the dynamic RAM chip for intellectual property, the potential for automation of privacy law, the history of law enforcement intelligence databases, the relationship of privacy to police photography, and computer surveillance in remote indigenous communities. He was admitted to practice as a lawyer in the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2010, and is a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation and the experimental arts organisation Liquid Architecture.


Dr Suelette Dreyfus

Panel Host: Dr Suelette Dreyfus

Computing and Information Systems, University of Melbourne

Dr Dreyfus is a researcher and lecturer in the School of Computer and Information Systems at The University of Melbourne. Her research interests focus around the application and usability of emerging technologies for broader social benefit. She does research in e-Education, e-Health and the impact of technology on integrity systems.