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New methods for state estimation and adaptive observation of environmental flow systems leveraging coordinated swarms of sensor networks

Start Date: March 23, 2015 12:00 PM
End Date: March 23, 2015 1:00 PM

​​​Professor Thomas Bewley

University of California San Diego


Abstract: The estimation and forecasting of hurricanes and environmental plumes are difficult problems of intense public interest.  Recent Atlantic hurricanes have been both costly and deadly, including:  Sandy (2012, $71B, 286 deaths), Irene (2011, $17B, 56 deaths), Ike (2008, $38B, 195 deaths), Katrina (2005, $125B, 1833 deaths), Wilma (2005, $29B, 23 deaths), Rita (2005, $12B, 62 deaths), Jeanne (2004, $7B, 3035 deaths), Ivan (2004, $23B, 124 deaths), Charley (2004, $15B, 40 deaths), Mitch (1998, $6B, 19325 deaths), and Andrew (1992, $27B, 65 deaths).  Large-scale contaminant plumes, such as those from Deepwater Horizon, Fukushima, and the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, also highlight the importance of estimating how environmental plumes evolve in real time, to move folks out of harm’s way.  The challenges in estimating and forecasting such systems accurately include: (a) environmental flow modeling, (b) high-performance real-time computing, (c) assimilating measured data into numerical simulations, and (d) acquiring new in-situ data that is maximally relevant for reducing forecast uncertainty.  This talk will focus on new techniques for addressing (c) and (d), namely, data assimilation and adaptive observation.  We will present our unique hybridization of the venerable Ensemble Kalman and Variational approaches to large-scale data assimilation in environmental flow systems, and how essentially the dual of this hybrid approach may be used to solve the adaptive observation problem in a uniquely effective and rigorous fashion.  We will also discuss some new ideas for the energy-efficient coordination of swarms of sensor-laden balloons for persistent, in-situ, distributed, real-time measurement of developing hurricanes.


Bio:  Prof. Thomas Bewley (BS/MS Caltech 1989, diploma von Karman Institute 1990, PhD Stanford 1998) directs the UCSD Flow Control and Coordinated Robotics Labs.  He currently works at the intersection of semi-autonomous agile robotics and the analysis, estimation, and forecasting of environmental flows using advanced control theory and numerical methods.  His Coordinated Robotics Lab is developing an array of clever vehicles to achieve maximum agility with minimal complexity, and is coming to market with a number of small toy and educational robotic vehicles in collaboration with WowWee Robotics.  His Flow Control Lab is developing new algorithms for weather-forecasting class problems like state estimation and adaptive observation in environmental contaminant plumes, and in-situ monitoring of developing hurricanes using buoyancy-controlled balloons.