Department of Computer Science


The RoboStar group is one of the largest research groups in the world on software engineering for robotics. Its aim is to bring a diverse membership of researchers working in robotics under a single umbrella. Its membership comprises researchers from the universities of York, Sheffield, Surrey and the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE).

Research Projects

Currently there are four ongoing research projects. The group started its work as part of the RoboCalc agenda.

RoboCalc: A Calculus for Software Engineering of Mobile and Autonomous Robots

Investigators: Ana Cavalcanti (PI), Jim Woodcock and Jon Timmis

Funding: EPSRC (EP/M025756/1)

This project involves developing a framework for integrated modelling, simulation, and programming of mobile and autonomous robots covering the full life cycle of development. The project adopts similar notations to those already in widespread use, but enriched with facilities to specify the environment and timed and probabilistic behaviours. For simulation, a language that captures facilities of major tools will be identified. The framework ensures that models and simulations are consistent and properties established by analysis and simulation are preserved in the robotic platform. The purpose is not to change current practice but to enrich it with sound validation and verification techniques. Challenges will be sound combination of notations and techniques, automation, and scalability.

RoboTest: Systematic Model-Based Testing and Simulation of Mobile Autonomous Robots

Investigators: Ana Cavalcanti (PI), Brijesh Dongol, Rob Hierons (PI), Jim Woodcock and Jon Timmis

Funding: EPSRC (EP/R025479/1), EPSRC (EP/R025134/2)

This project will see the development of novel automated test-generation techniques for mobile and autonomous robots. A RoboTest tester will construct a model of a robot using a notation already employed in the design of simulations and implementations. With the push of a button, the tester generates and executes tests for simulations, choosing from a variety of simulators, and then produces deployment tests. The RoboTest tester is in a strong position to understand the reality gap between the simulation and the real world. The RoboTest tester knows that test verdicts are correct and that tests are guaranteed to find faults of an identified class, and so can answer the difficult question: have we tested enough? RoboTest is moving the testing of mobile and autonomous robots onto a sound footing, making testing more efficient and effective and reducing longer term costs.

CyPhyAssure: Compositional Safety Assurance for Cyber-Physical Systems

Investigators: Simon Foster (PI)

Funding: EPSRC (EP/S001190/1)

The goal of the CyPhyAssure project is to develop a methodology for compositional assurance of autonomous robots. This will be supported by a mechanical safety case platform for robotic multi-models, and associated verification tools. The platform will be based in Isabelle, and will support both construction of arguments and production of supporting evidence from formal verification tools. We will validate it by application to assurance demonstrators from our industrial partners, and support our technology with an outreach programme. We will mechanise denotational semantics for a number of modelling languages using our Isabelle/UTP framework, which will facilitate the production of verification tools.

RoboTIC@ - Information and Communication Technology for Robotics and Applications

Investigators: Augusto Sampaio (PI)

Funding: INES

The main objective of this project is to create a systematic and rigorous methodology to specify, verify, design and implement robotic applications. It is closely connected with the RoboCalc project. The focus is on the design of a graphical simulation language, RoboSim, and mapping models in RoboSim to several target platforms: Arduino, B and Simulink/Stateflow, among others. Development of the final implementations from the simulations is also in scope. Finally, we will also consider probabilistic models, modelling of the environment and the development of real-world applications.

Requirements Modelling for Cyber-Physical Systems

Investigators: Jim Woodcock (PI)

Funding: The Royal Society

Cyber-physical systems (CPSs) are characterised as systems that are controlled and monitored by software and are tightly integrated with the internet and its users. Physical and software components are intimately linked, operating in different time-bands and at different spatial scales. They exhibit emergent behaviours arising from their interactions and changing environments. Examples of CPSs include smart grids, self-driving cars, fly-by-wire avionics, personalised healthcare, process control systems, and autonomous robotics. CPSs are complex and raise significant challenges in dependability and trust. Correspondingly strong guarantees are needed in order to justify their deployment. This project addresses these issues by devising and supporting methods for modelling their requirements and providing precise contracts for what a CPS may and may not do.

Department of Computer Science
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