March 2021

Pablo Iturralde about Unmanned Vehicles

Unmanned vehicles are becoming more and more commonplace in modern world. However, software developers and engineers are still have to make this type of transport extremely smart and safe.

One of the domains of the project training, available for Moscow Poly students, is the design of unmanned vehicles. Pablo Emilio Iturralde Bakero, the Dean of the Moscow Poly Transport Faculty, told us about the problems with unmanned vehicle development in Russia, about need for certain specialists and how to get in the team of unmanned vehicle creators.

 What are current problems with the creation of unmanned vehicles?

The main problem of this field in Russia is a strong accent on software developers. The level of Russian specialized electronics is extremely high. The hardware itself is not worse than American not in the slightest. However, Russian unmanned vehicles are quite slow and lack “brains”. The thing is that the developers forget one important thing: you cannot create a “brain” separately from a “body”. The bottom line is that the programs are the best in the world, but they are completely unaware of the object.

Imagine that a sportsman`s brain is transplanted into a human body, which has never ever done sports. The “trained” brain can work perfectly fine in theory, however, the weak body won`t handle all the pressure and eventually fail. A trained man knows the technique; his movements are automatic, as after a long period of practice the brain simplifies the action algorithm.

It`s important to remember that the brain and the body must train together. That`s what we do: our engineers are creating the chassis from the very beginning in order to pair it with a certain type of electronics, developed by our partners.

What is the main task in the work on unmanned vehicles?

 First of all, we need to pair the software with the hardware. When a computer is adapted for a certain vehicle, its size can be reduced, as the amount of necessary data becomes smaller. We can move faster: a vehicle won`t need to calculate every time the angle of steering wheel rotation in order to make a 5-degree turn, as the computer has already programmed necessary actions. In order to pass an obstacle the vehicle needs only a signal from cameras.

Russian unmanned vehicles are quite helpless before an obstacle, as they start conducting hundreds of calculations. As a result, the vehicle moves forwards and backwards many times in order to calculate the necessary trajectory.

Several years ago I heard that it was useless to produce hardware in Russia – there were plenty of it in China. This expert was sure that you could buy a vehicle in another country and develop only the software. It doesn`t work like that: you can`t prepare only a sportsman`s brain, you need to develop the brain-body combination.

The more you develop the technologies, the more the vehicle will behave like people. A vehicle used to need a man as its brain, which gives orders, but nowadays these functions can be performed by a computer, adapting to a situation.

Tell us, please, how do Moscow Poly student participate in the work on unmanned vehicles?

 The vehicles are developed by specialists, who are usually enrolled in electro-bikes production. Our students create the chassis of a vehicle and manage the battery, the computer and all the sensors.

They are talented engineers: the bike from our laboratory set the world speed record, and now we are transferring this experience to the current project. We also invited several software developers to work with us: soon we`ll be able to see the result.

Any Moscow Poly applicant has an opportunity to take part in the creation of a real unmanned vehicle. My only requirement for a project – it must be completed.

We accept the students, who are ready to work hard, as our goal is not just to produce something, but to reach the top.

When we conduct interviews for potential team members, we always ask: “Do you understand that you will develop not just an electric vehicle? You will develop an electric vehicle that will set records. Your unmanned vehicle must be the best”.

What are the opportunities for students after the project? Do you help them with the employment?

According to the statistics, 1 of 10 students of our faculty chooses the Engineering Center for his or her project training, where he or she will be able to develop unmanned vehicles. Other students participate in other, simpler projects.

Our every project has a lot of partners, who are partially funding it. Their primal goal is the workforce. We always offer employment: we send students to our partners or hire them in our Center.

It`s really important for us that a student is ready to work. If you study 4-5 hours a day and dedicate 8 hours to a project – you`re one of us, welcome. If you`re not ready to give so much time, you should find another project. That`s okay, everybody has personal priorities.

Our guys want to become the best. They dedicate 7-8 hours a day to their projects. At first, you just learn, and when you become a valuable employee, we`re ready to pay you for your time.

The participation in the projects gives an amazing “side effect”: you`ll learn something. Our students could set world records in their majors, and it speaks volumes.

It`s not that simple to achieve such a result. You have to work hard. Fortunately, the University provides every opportunity: the lab, the funds and the attendance. Everything else is only up to you.

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