Date of Award

Summer 8-2015

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Robotics Institute


Artur Dubrawski


Effective use of Machine Learning to support extracting maximal information from limited sensor data is one of the important research challenges in robotic sensing. This thesis develops techniques for detecting and characterizing patterns in noisy sensor data. Our Bayesian Aggregation (BA) algorithmic framework can leverage data fusion from multiple low Signal-To-Noise Ratio (SNR) sensor observations to boost the capability to detect and characterize the properties of a signal generating source or process of interest. We illustrate our research with application to the nuclear threat detection domain. Developed algorithms are applied to the problem of processing the large amounts of gamma ray spectroscopy data that can be produced in real-time by mobile radiation sensors. The thesis experimentally shows BA’s capability to boost sensor performance in detecting radiation sources of interest, even if the source is faint, partiallyoccluded, or enveloped in the noisy and variable radiation background characteristic of urban scenes. In addition, BA provides simultaneous inference of source parameters such as the source intensity or source type while detecting it. The thesis demonstrates this capability and also develops techniques to efficiently optimize these parameters over large possible setting spaces. Methods developed in this thesis are demonstrated both in simulation and in a radiation-sensing backpack that applies robotic localization techniques to enable indoor surveillance of radiation sources. The thesis further improves the BA algorithm’s capability to be robust under various detection scenarios. First, we augment BA with appropriate statistical models to improve estimation of signal components in low photon count detection, where the sensor may receive limited photon counts from either source and/or background. Second, we develop methods for online sensor reliability monitoring to create algorithms that are resilient to possible sensor faults in a data pipeline containing one or multiple sensors. Finally, we develop Retrospective BA, a variant of BA that allows reinterpretation of past sensor data in light of new information about percepts. These Retrospective capabilities include the use of Hidden Markov Models in BA to allow automatic correction of a sensor pipeline when sensor malfunction may be occur, an Anomaly- Match search strategy to efficiently optimize source hypotheses, and prototyping of a Multi-Modal Augmented PCA to more flexibly model background and nuisance source fluctuations in a dynamic environment.