Autonomous Systems and Robotics


AI will help to enable a new generation of robots and other autonomous system that have the potential to bring major benefits to society in critical application areas such as health and social care, agriculture, manufacturing and challenging environments. However, the adoption of robots and other autonomous systems will be limited unless they can be shown to be trustworthy, safe and secure.

High-level challenges for autonomous systems research include:

  • What methodologies and technologies can we develop to ensure the safety, security and reliability of autonomous systems in critical applications? How can autonomous systems be safeguarded against adversarial attacks?
  • How can we build safe and effective collaborative robots to work alongside humans in areas such as manufacturing, agriculture, and medicine? How can we build trust between robotic systems and human co-workers?

Image of robots in lab

Sheffield Robotics

Sheffield has world leading expertise in robotics and autonomous systems. 

Sheffield Robotics brings together researchers from across a variety of disciplines and all faculties at the University of Sheffield and from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), Sheffield Hallam University and industry, to make Sheffield a leading hub for Robotics research.

Sheffield Robotics group research on autonomous systems and robotics into a number of interdisciplinary research themes. These include: 

Humans and Robots - Researchers at the University of Sheffield are working in a number areas including: human-robot interaction, medical and assistive robotics, field robotics, how to build trust in robotics and autonomous systems, safe collaborative robotics for manufacturing, cognitive robotics and laws and ethics for autonomous systems.

Distributed Robotics - combines research in computer science, communication and control systems, and electrical and mechanical engineering.  Distributed robotic systems can autonomously solve complex problems while operating in highly unstructured real-world environments and they are expected to play a major role in addressing future societal needs, for example, by improving environmental impact assessment, food supply, transportation, manufacturing, security, and emergency and rescue services.  Sub-areas include swarm robotics, multi-robot systems and reconfigurable robotics.

Autonomy - Research focuses on the engineering of control systems that are capable of verifiable and safe autonomous action. Research on autonomy covers core area of robotics including sensing, control, decision making, communication, networking and system integration emphasising systems modelling, formal verification, and distributed and parallel control.  This theme also extends to the development of robotic hardware building on our strengths in smart electronics, sensors, actuators and power management.

Bioinspired & Biomimetic Systems - Living organisms represent the most sophisticated robust and adaptable autonomous systems we know. The approach of engineering autonomy is complemented by reverse-engineering of biological systems to uncover new principles for the design and control of robots.  Research in this theme builds on our University’s excellence in the physical and biological sciences and neuroscience, drawing on world-leading empirical research on model organisms to synthesise novel soft robotic and biohybrid systems.  

Manufacturing- Researchers at Sheffield are working on a number of areas in autonomous systems and robotics for manufacturing. These include: safe, collaborative robots, flexible manufacturing and security of digital twins in manufacturing.  Sheffield Robotics works closely with the AMRC and industry partners to successfully transfer technology in machine vision, collaborative robotics, and digital manufacturing to industry. 

Field Robotics and Smart Cities - Researchers at Sheffield are working on challenges in aerial robotics, agri-tech, smart cities, navigation and micro-robots - "Pipe bots" that are designed to work in underground pipe networks and dangerous sites.

Robotics Sciences - Researchers at Sheffield are working on a number of different areas, including intelligent control and signal processing, machine learning and AI, natural language processing, and sensing and perception.

Robot Bodies - Researchers at Sheffield are carrying out research on Robot bodies, in sub-areas of biometrics and micro robots.

To find out more about research on robotics and autonomous systems, facilities and equipment visit:
Visit Sheffield Robotics


Centres of excellence

The University's cross-faculty research centres harness our interdisciplinary expertise to solve the world's most pressing challenges.