Ocean Systems Lab  
Ocean Systems Lab Heriot-Watt University Ocean Systems Laboratory

David Lane

David Lane

david.lane -at- edinburgh-robotics.org
+44 (0) 774 064 4094
Ocean Systems Laboratory, Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Mountbatten Building, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, Scotland, UK

Professor of Autonomous Systems Engineering,
Ocean Systems Laboratory, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

David Lane graduated in 1980 with a BSc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and again in 1986 with a PhD in Underwater Robotics. In 1979 he worked offshore in the North Sea as diver/maintainer for British Oceanics Ltd, and from 1980-82 as a Development Engineer at Ferranti Ltd. From 1982 he held a series of research and academic appointments, culminating in a Professorial Chair at Heriot-Watt University in 1998, and visiting Professorships at Florida Atlantic University in 1999 and Edinburgh University from 2006. In 1995 he took up Directorship of the University’s Ocean Systems Laboratory and led it’s development to a staff of 30 with £27M total funding from the UK Research Councils, Ministry of Defence, European Union and US Office of Naval Research.

In 2001 he founded SeeByte Ltd (http://www.seebyte.com) and as CEO until 2010 lead the company’s organic evolution from startup to a multi-million dollar organisation located in Edinburgh and San Diego. Through commercialisation of his team’s 20 year portfolio of research into the international offshore energy and defence markets, the business grew at an average 45% pa during the recession, continually cash positive, with 75% of its business in exports to three continents. Under his leadership SeeByte won their first $8-figure export contract (US Navy) in 2009 and in 2010 an $8-figure new autonomous vehicle development for the offshore oil industry. As the global leader in smart autonomy software for unmanned maritime systems, SeeByte's products and solutions are relied upon by over a dozen Navies world-wide, and by a range of manufacturers, operators and contractors in the offshore Oil&Gas business, including the pioneering Subsea7 Autonomous Inspection Vehicle. For these, SeeByte won the 2010 Praxis Unico Business Impact Achieved Award and 2013 Scottish Digital Technology Award for International Growth. Continually profitable from day one, at exit in 2013 to Batelle Memorial Institute, over 40 employee-shareholders benefited. In 2016 he was appointed Chairman of Consequential Robotics Ltd developing the next generation of assistive and companion robots.

In 1995 he was H.Burr Steinbach Visiting Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and in 2007 was Scientific Advisor to the NATO Undersea Research Centre, La Spezia, Italy.

Currently he is Founder and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, (www.edinburgh-robotics.org) a £35M joint venture between Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Universities, involving some 30 world leading investigators in 12 cross disciplinary research groups across Engineering and Informatics. It includes the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), the NERC/ESPRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Next Generation Unmanned Systems Science (NEXUSS), and the ROBOTARIUM National Equipment Facility for Research into Robot Interaction. He recently co-ordinated the EU FP7 Challenge 2 project PANDORA, (www.persistentautonomy.com), and leads in others including ARROWS, ROBOCADEMY, LAKSHMI, STRONGMAR, SUNRISE and EPSRC Sustained Autonomy < (http://www.arrowsproject.eu, http://www.robocademy.eu/)

In public leadership roles in 2013/14 he led development of the UK’s national Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) innovation strategy for the UK Minister for Universities and Science. This directly and indirectly motivated and influenced over £200M of UK Govt investment in Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) R&D. He was also a Director of euRobotics aisbl shaping the EU Horizon2020 Robotics public-private partnership and the direction of €700M in funding from the European Commission, with triple that amount from European industry,

He sits on the Advisory Board of the 8 Great Technologies Venture Fund, BAe Systems Corporate Foresight Panel and the UK Atomic Energy Authority Programme Advisory Committee. He Chairs the RSE Enterprise Fellowship and B3 Engineering Fellowship Selection Committees, is a member and mentor in the RAEng Enterprise Fellowship Programme, a member of the EPSRC Engineering Strategic Advisory Team (SAT) and RAEng Finance Committee. He is General Chair of the 2017 EU Robotics Forum Conference bringing 800 top European roboticists from research, innovation and industry to Edinburgh.

He has been elected to Fellowships of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Geographical Society, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Society for Underwater Technology and the Court of Heriot-Watt University (2011-14).

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Engineering by Her Majesty the Queen in the 2016 New Year's Honours list.

His technical interests are in autonomous systems, sensor processing and subsea robotics. Over a 30 year period he has published widely in the scientific literature, making contributions in underwater vehicle control, servoing, docking and obstacle avoidance. He has developed flexible actuator sensing and control technology for novel robot gripper and biomimetic underwater propulsion applications. In sensor processing, he has lead projects applying novel signal processing and data fusion methods using sonar and video systems to marine science and mine countermeasures detection and visualisation. He has also lead work on robot architecture, autonomous planning and SLAM navigation, culminating in practical automated systems working offshore performing inspection, repair and maintenance.

Recently he co-ordinated the EU FP7 Challenge 2 project PANDORA (www.persistentautonomy.com) developing new generations of persistently autonomous cognitive robots, that link perception and action with learning and adaptation so as to be self-sustaining over extended periods in unknown environments. These are being applied broadly for unmanned vehicles, and for autonomous diagnostic and maintenance planning systems in rail, wind energy and offshore oil/gas.

He is a British Sub Aqua Club Advanced Instructor, SRU Mini Rugby Coach/Referee, and keen skier who has learnt to snowboard. Following training by the Royal Air Force reserve, he holds a Pilots License with Aerobatic and Instrument certifications. From 1985 to 1988 he took a part time role on the Directing Staff of Operation Raleigh round the world expedition, leading diving operations and training in 1986 on phase 7a in Cape York peninsula, Australia. His ambition to run a 10k in under 40mins continues to have a small steady-state error, and he has taken up cycling as a result

His hobbies include getting up early and going to bed late, putting petrol in a VW Bus, eating on behalf of his employers and phoning home.

Exemplar Publications and Associated Impact:

[1] M.W. Dunnigan, D.M. Lane, A.C. Clegg, I Edwards “Hybrid Position-Force Control of A Hydraulic Underwater Manipulator” IEE Proceedings Control Theory and Applications, Vol. 143, No 2, pp 145-151 (1996) Shortlisted for an IEE best paper premium.
This adaptive control approach enabled stable operation during contact inspection tasks through a wide range of the robots operating envelope. NDT use offshore for weld inspection.

[2] D.M. Lane, D.Y. Dai, M.J. Chantler “Robust Tracking of Multiple Objects In Sector Scan Sonar Image Sequences Using Optical Flow Motion Estimation” IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering. Vol. 23 No 1 (1998.)
Underpinned use of temporal feature measures to classify moving objects (eg divers) and to recover sensor motion information for visual servoing tasks such as autonomous docking.

[3] D.M. Lane, J.B.C.Davies, G. Robinson, D.J. O’Brien, M.Pickett “The AMADEUS Dexterous Subsea Hand: Design Modelling and Sensor Signal Processing”. IEEE Journal Oceanic Engineering Vol. 24 No 1 January 1999.
World’s first underwater robot hand for manipulating delicate objects. Significant innovations in mechanical finger design using flexible actuators, and in their control.

[4] M. Sfakiotakis, D.M. Lane, J.B.C. Davies “Review of Fish Swimming Modes for Aquatic Locomotion” IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, April 1999 Vol. 24 (2). 243 Scopus Citations. Number 1 most accessed paper from IEEE Journal Oceanic Engineering.
Now standard citation in the bio-engineering literature on fish-like propulsion. Part of EPSRC funded development of dorsal and caudal fin propulsors using flexible actuators

[5] I. Tena Ruiz, S. de Raucourt, Y. Petillot and D. M. Lane “Concurrent Mapping and Localisation Using Side-Scan Sonar” IEEE Journal Oceanic Engineering, Vol. 29 (2): 442-456 (2004,) 19 Citations
First development of computational techniques to enable construction of accurate sonar mosaics using poor navigation data from cheap sensors. Essential visualisation tool.

[6] C. Capus, Y. Pailhas, K. Brown, D.M. Lane, P.W. Moore, D. Hauser “Bio-inspired wideband sonar signals based on observations of the bottlenose dolphin” Journal of Acoustical Society of America Vol. 121, No 1 (2007)
New sonar design now proven for autonomous following of underwater cables and recognition of man made objects. New spin out company ‘Hydrason’ started trading in 2011.

[7] E. Coiras, Y.R. Petillot, D.M.Lane “Multi-Resolution 3D Reconstruction from Side-Scan Sonar Images” IEEE Transactions on Image Processing Vol. 16, No 2, pp 382-390 (2007)
Part of a portfolio of work that underpin visualisation and automatic target recognition underwater. Commercialised for finding/removing mines and inspecting ships underwater.

[8] C. Petres, Y Petillot, D.M.Lane “Path Planning for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles” IEEE Transaction on Robotics Vol. 23, No 3. (2007)
Practical scheme for determining trajectories and avoiding obstacles. Enables long term autonomy in unknown environments, including docking. Part of SeeTrack’s portfolio for AIV.

[9] K. Hamilton, D.M. Lane, K Brown, N. Taylor “An Integrated Diagnostic Architecture for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles” Journal of Field Robotics. Vol. 24, No 6, pp 497-526 (2007)
Patented, underpins SeeByte’s capabilities for predictive diagnosis and condition based maintenance. Applied commercially to rail rolling stock (Trenitalia) and offshore wind (EON)

[10] C.C. Sotzing, D.M.Lane “Improving the Co-ordination Efficiency of Limited Communication Multi-AUV Operations Using a Multi- Agent Architecture” Journal of Field Robotics Vol 27 No 4 July 2010 pp412-429
Enables multiple autonomous vehicles to co-ordinate their goals. Demonstrated practically in Scotland, and now picked up by the US Navy for possible fleet use.

Further Details


Please refer to the publications page to see a list of my publications.
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