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DRiFTlab is a research group led by Dr. Francis Lagor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University at Buffalo. DRiFTlab focuses on the interaction of engineered systems with their environments, which are often complex aerial and underwater flow fields. To address the challenges posed by these complex environmental dynamics, we employ tools from fluid mechanics, analytical dynamics, nonlinear control theory, and nonlinear/non-Gaussian estimation in the design of algorithms, vehicle platforms, sensor arrays, and dynamic controllers. Our research approach combines elements of analysis, computation, and experimentation.

Research areas:
  • Autonomous flow sensing and control
  • Mobile sensor networks
  • Bio-inspired robotics


Wake behind a flat plate at 10 degrees angle of attack as seen in the body frame. The upper plot is the ground-truth flow field (generated using COMSOL) and the bottom plot is a filter estimate of the flow field based pressure signals only.

An augmented observability example from model-predictive path planning: calculation of the empirical observability Gramian by performing 2n simulations of the system from perturbed initial conditions and incorporating background error covariance to form the empirical augmented observability Gramian.

Rigid and flexible robotic fish containing bio-inspired lateral line flow sensing arrays, consisting of pressure and whisker sensors, from prior collaborative work with Dr. Derek Paley (UMD), Dr. Xiaobo Tan (MSU), Dr. Levi DeVries (USNA), and Dr. Feitian Zhang (GMU).
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