Autonomous Systems

The Autonomous Systems group’s fundamental research programs in optimisation, control systems and robotics complement discipline strengths in other areas of engineering and medicine, and are motivated by real world problems identified through industry collaborations.

The Autonomous Systems group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering is a key part of the larger Autonomous Systems expertise spread across multiple departments in the Melbourne School of Engineering. The autonomous systems capability in Mechanical Engineering focuses on applied research directly motivated by physical and technical challenges faced in the commercial world, industrial environments and our daily lives.

Our group has strengths in the development of efficient and practical methods of controlling and optimising dynamic systems. This expertise has been applied to a range of challenging problems including automotive powertrain control, defence systems, precision manufacturing systems, rehabilitation robotics, neuro-prostheses and surgical robotics. 


Dynamics and Control Research Lab

Melbourne Robotics Laboratory

Key people

Featured project: Assistive and rehabilitation robotics

Project Leader: Denny Oetomo,

Staff: Iven Mareels, Denny Oetomo, Ying Tan, Vincent Crocher, David Ackland

Student: Justin Fong, Gijo Sebastian

Collaborators: Mary Galea (Medicine), Fary Khan (Medicine), Frank Vetere (Computing and Information Systems), Marlena Klaic (Melbourne Health), Etienne Burdet (Imperial College, London), Chris Freeman (University of Southampton, UK)

robotic exoskeleton
Armeo Power robotic exoskeleton (Royal Melbourne Hospital)

This project focuses on the study of robotics technology in the clinical rehabilitation of people with motion impairment, such as in post-stroke patients. The scope also includes the study of human motor systems in the case of motor adaptation and skill learning in healthy human subjects. 

This research is conducted in collaboration with the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry, and Health Sciences (Professor Mary Galea and Professor Fary Khan). Within the Melbourne School of Engineering, this also involves the Biomechanics team (Dr David Ackland) as well as the Microsoft Social Natural User Interface team led by Professor Frank Vetere, studying the use of wearable sensors.  Internationally, this project collaborates with Professor Etienne Burdet (Imperial College, London) and Associate Professor Chris Freeman (University of Southampton, UK).

The study focuses on the modelling of clinical mechanisms in motion generation and impairment from the engineering perspective. Fundamental engineering topics, such as the computational model of human motor control and motor learning, are greatly leveraged. In this aspect of the project, the human motor systems behaviour in achieving task execution and skill learning is studied through the use of fundamental engineering models, especially control theory. Practical aspects of the project also involve the evaluation of robotics systems coupled with engineering techniques for patient assessment. The outcomes are applied to rehabilitation robotics in order to provide a rigorous analysis of the strategies used. 

Currently facilities include:

  • An Armeo Power (Hocoma, Switzerland) rehabilitation robot, currently located at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Park campus, to be used by (and to gather data from) patients in the clinic.
  • The Joint UoM-RMH Movement Laboratory, with Vicon Motion Capture system, force plate and EMG sensors, located at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Park campus.
  • A planar 2 DoF robotic manipulandum for Human Motor Control experiment on healthy subjects, located at the Melbourne School of Engineering, Parkville.