Raffaello D’Andrea (*August 13, 1967 in Pordenone, Italy) a Canadian/Italian/Swiss engineer, artist, and entrepreneur. He is professor of dynamic systems and control at ETH Zurich. He is a co-founder of Kiva Systems (now operating as Amazon Robotics), and a founder of Verity Studios. He was the faculty advisor and system architect of the Cornell Robot Soccer Team, four time world champions at the annual RoboCup competition. He is a new media artist, whose work includes The Table, the Robotic Chair, and Flight Assembled Architecture.
D’Andrea was born on August 13, 1967 in Pordenone, Italy. He moved to Canada in 1976, where he graduated valedictorian from Anderson Collegiate in Whitby, Ontario. He received a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Toronto, graduating in Engineering Science in 1991 and winning the Wilson Medal as the top graduating student that year. In 1997 he received a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology, under the supervision of John Doyle and Richard Murray.
He joined the Cornell faculty in 1997. While on sabbatical in 2003, he co-founded Kiva Systems with Mick Mountz and Peter Wurman. He became Kiva Systems’ chief technical advisor in 2007 when he was appointed professor of dynamic systems and control at ETH Zurich. He founded Verity Studios with Markus Waibel and Markus Hehn in 2014.
After receiving his PhD in 1997, he joined the Cornell faculty as an assistant professor, where he was a founding member of the Systems Engineering program, and where he established robot soccer — a competition featuring fully autonomous robots — as the flagship, multidisciplinary team project. In addition to pioneering the use of semi-definite programming for the design of distributed control systems, he went on to lead the Cornell Robot Soccer Team to four world championships at international RoboCup competitions in Sweden, Australia, Italy, and Japan.
After being appointed professor at ETH Zurich in 2007, D’Andrea established a research program that combined his broad interests and cemented his hands-on teaching style. His team engages in cutting edge research by designing and building creative experimental platforms that allow them to explore the fundamental principles of robotics, control, and automation. His creations include the Flying Machine Arena, where flying robots perform aerial acrobatics, juggle balls, balance poles, and cooperate to build structures; the Distributed Flight Array, a flying platform consisting of multiple autonomous single propeller vehicles that are able to drive, dock with their peers, and fly in a coordinated fashion; the Balancing Cube, a dynamic sculpture that can balance on any of its edges or corners; Blind Juggling Machines that can juggle balls without seeing them, and without catching them; and the Cubli, a cube that can jump up, balance, and walk.
D’Andrea co-founded Kiva Systems in 2003 with Mick Mountz and Peter Wurman. He became chief technical advisor when he was appointed professor of dynamic systems and control at ETH Zurich in 2007. At Kiva, he led the systems architecture, robot design, robot navigation and coordination, and control algorithms efforts.
D’Andrea founded Verity Studios in 2014 with Markus Hehn and Markus Waibel. The stated purpose of the company is "the development of dynamic machines and related systems for entertainment purposes." The company recently partnered with Cirque du Soleil to create Sparked, a live interaction between humans and quadcopters.
D’Andrea and Canadian artist Max Dean unveiled their collaborative work The Table at the Venice Biennale in 2001. They orchestrate a scenario wherein a spectator, selected by the table, becomes a performer, who is now an object not only of the table's "attention", but also of the other viewers'. It is part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC).
The Robotic Chair was created by D’Andrea, Max Dean, and Canadian artist Matt Donovan. It is an ordinary looking chair that falls apart and re-assembles itself. It was first unveiled to the general public at IdeaCity in 2006. It is part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC).
D’Andrea and Swiss architects Gramazio & Kohler created Flight Assembled Architecture, the first architectural installation assembled by flying robots. It took place at the FRAC Centre Orléans in France in 2011-2012. The installation consists of 1,500 modules put into place by a multitude of quadrotor helicopters. Within the build, an architectural vision of a 600-metre high "vertical village" for 30,000 inhabitants unfolds as a model in 1:100 scale. It is in the permanent collection of the FRAC Centre.
Awards and honors
- 2020 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee
- 2016 IEEE Robotics and Automation Award
- 2015 Engelberger Robotics Award
- 2008 IEEE/IFR Invention and Entrepreneurship Award
- 2002 Presidential Early Career Award
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