Machines are already capable of many things. A certain set of sensors has already been fully developed. And yet, Harald Gietler, researcher at the Department of Smart Systems Technologies seeks to discover: “Who knows what kinds of sensors we will need in the future?” He is currently developing a new technology, which will allow machines to determine the location of other machines.
Harald Gietler specialises in electrical engineering. Using electromagnetic fields, for instance, he hopes to improve the localisation of autonomous systems, such as robots or drones. Explaining the mechanism involved, he tells us: “There’s a transmitter and a receiver. Between the two, an electromagnetic field is established, which helps the receiver to determine the location of the transmitter.”
This technology could be useful, for example, in production halls where several robots are actively deployed, or in the case of wireless charging platforms, which require drones to land as accurately as possible. When asked whether there are limits to using an electromagnetic field in this way, Gietler replies: “Yes, there are limits. However, within a range of just a few metres we can provide a position determination that is precise to the nearest centimetre. What counts is this: the closer, the better.”
Under the supervision of Hubert Zangl, professor at the Department of Smart Systems Technologies, Harald Gietler is working on this topic for his doctoral thesis. In the course of his scientific career, he recently had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad at the renowned ETH Zürich, where he focused on a different aspect of the functionality of this technology. Specifically, electromagnetic fields are subject to disturbance variables, which often take the form of conductive objects, usually made of metal. “In many cases, robots are also made of metal”, Harald Gietler points out. In order to be able to deliver correct results despite these disturbance variables, their effects must be taken into account in the mathematical model. For this, attention needs to be paid to both the respective metals and the design of the robots. Due to the intensive support received at ETH Zurich, Gietler and his supervising professor were able to achieve very good results within a very short time. After returning to Klagenfurt, he now wants to process these results further. What is more, he is already preparing for a further research period abroad.
It appears that Harald Gietler, who began his studies in Information and Communications Engineering after completing the secondary technical college in Klagenfurt and who is now about to complete his doctorate, is aiming straight for a scientific career. When asked, he elaborates: “Yes, research offers many advantages. One of them is freedom. Freedom to work on whatever interests you. And, to a large degree, freedom to do that wherever and whenever you want”. Harald Gietler also enjoys teaching. Whether his path will eventually lead him to a professorship, or whether he will be tempted by a job in industry, is still wide open. “At any rate, I’m not worried,” he explains. Thanks to his goal-oriented approach to work, there is certainly no need for concern.