Space & Terrestrial Autonomous Robotic Systems

Assistant Professor J. Kelly
University of Toronto
Institute for Aerospace Studies
4925 Dufferin St., Ontario, Canada M3H 5T6

Phone: +1-416-667-7708
Fax: +1-416-667-7799
Email: jkelly (at)


  • Ph.D. – University of Southern California
  • M.S. – University of Southern California
  • B.Sc. – University of Alberta

Research Summary

Professor Kelly’s research is focussed on developing robust autonomous systems that are able to operate independently over long durations in challenging environments, for example, in space and on remote planetary surfaces. He is also interested in ‘bringing space robotics down to Earth,’ by emphasizing opportunities for technology transfer from space systems to terrestrial robots.

Professor Kelly received his PhD from the University of Southern California, where he was an Annenberg Fellow and was supported in part by a PGS-D award from NSERC Canada. His doctoral dissertation explored methods for self-calibrating hybrid visual- inertial navigation systems. Before moving to UTIAS, he held a postdoctoral appointment in the Robust Robotics Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to graduate school, he was a Software Engineer in the Space Technologies division of the Canadian Space Agency.
The work in Kelly’s group is motivated by the desire to implement effective autonomy solutions across a broad spectrum of application domains. Specifically, the group seeks to build robots that are:

  1. persistent — able to function reliably and safely for days to weeks, or longer, with little or no human intervention, and
  2. pervasive — efficient and cost-effective enough to be widely deployable within a specific application domain or domains.

Towards these goals, Kelly’s group develops algorithms for an array of sensing devices and robotic platforms. Examples of current research topics include: robust, self- correcting sensing; low-fidelity sensor fusion for high-fidelity observation; long-term navigation, mapping and change detection; and autonomous science discovery. Theoretical results are verified through rigorous experimental trials, to ensure that the group’s research can be successfully applied in the field.

Applications from talented and enthusiastic students are always welcome. Please visit Professor Kelly’s web site at for more information.