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Personal profile

Research interests

Yvan specialises in robotics and sensing and is an expert in autonomous systems, image analysis and control applied to the subsea domain. He has made major contributions in sonar image processing and target detection and recognition.  He manages a portfolio of £1M grants covering all aspects of underwater signal processing from MIMO and bio-inspired sonar systems to seabed classification and automatic target detection in clutter.


Yvan Petillot is a Professor of Robotics and Computer Vision at Heriot-Watt University. He is a leading member of the Oceans Systems Laboratory, the deputy director of the Institute for Sensor Signals and Systems and the deputy director of the joint research institute in Signal and Image Processing (ERP-SIP) with Edinburgh University. He is also currently a Royal Society Industry Fellow in collaboration with SeeByte Ltd, a company he co-founded in 2001 and in which he was Chief Technical Officer until 2010. With over 15 years experience in Robotics, Image Processing and Autonomous Systems in the maritime domain, he has made very significant contributions to target detection and classification multiple vehicle collaboration and autonomous inspection and manipulation. He has a long history of successful collaborations with other leading researchers in Europe through a number of European Research Projects (ALIVE, Autotracker, Amason, 2005, FreeSubNet 2008, Trident, 2010, Eurathlon 2012) totaling over £1.5M of research funding. He had also been working closely with MOD and DSTL on defense related projects and secured a number of EPSRC projects in the robotics and signal processing areas. He was recently awarded a programme grant in Signal Processing for the Networked battle space in collaboration with Edinburgh University and is leading the research in the maritime domain. He created the first European Competition in Underwater Robotics for autonomous systems in 2006, with support from EPSRC and MOD and has led this effort since in collaboration with the NATO Undersea Research Centre. He has since been awarded and European Union Funded project (Eurathlon) to develop a real-world competition for disaster relief covering the air, land and sea domains.

In parallel, Professor Petillot has a unique track record in technology transfer and engagement with industry. He co-founded SeeByte Ltd in 2001 and led the transitioning of research, technology and personnel from the University to the company. Of note were the successful transfer of the Autotracker EU funded project, now a product in SeeByte ltd sold worldwide, the transfer of MOD funded collaborative framework for multi-vehicle collaboration, evaluated by the US Navy under their Foreign Competitive Technology framework and now a product sold to the US and UK Navies.


  • TC Hydraulic engineering. Ocean engineering
  • Electronics
  • Information & Communication Technology
  • Marine Renewables
  • Oil & Gas
  • Robotics & Autonomous Systems

Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

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Sonar Engineering & Materials Science
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sonar Earth & Environmental Sciences
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Co Author Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Research Output 1992 2018

3D laser scanner for underwater manipulation

Palomer, A., Ridao, P., Youakim, D., Ribas, D., Forest, J. & Petillot, Y., 4 Apr 2018, In : Sensors. 18, 4, 1086

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access

Adaptive low-level control of autonomous underwater vehicles using deep reinforcement learning

Carlucho, I., De Paula, M., Wang, S., Petillot, Y. & Acosta, G. G., Sep 2018, In : Robotics and Autonomous Systems. 107, p. 71-86 16 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Autonomous underwater vehicles
Level control
Reinforcement learning
Energy utilization
Decision making

A Natural Language Interface with Relayed Acoustic Communications for Improved Command and Control of AUVs

Robb, D., Scharff Willners, J., Valeyrie, N., Garcia, F. J. C., Laskov, A., Liu, X., Patron, P., Hastie, H. & Petillot, Y., 5 Nov 2018, (Accepted/In press) 2018 IEEE OES Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Symposium. IEEE

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Autonomous underwater vehicles
Remote control

AUV Position Tracking Control Using End-to-End Deep Reinforcement Learning

Carlucho, I., De Paula, M., Wang, S., Menna, B. V., Acosta, G. G. & Petillot, Y., 12 Jun 2018, (Accepted/In press) OCEANS 2018 MTS/IEEE Charleston. IEEE

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Learning and Composing Primitive Skills for Generalisable Dual-arm Manipulation

Pairet, E., Ardón Ramirez, P., Broz, F., Mistry, M. & Petillot, Y., 10 Aug 2018, (Accepted/In press)

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Royal Society Industry Fellowship - SeeByte

Yvan Petillot (Recipient), May 2013

Prize: Fellowship awarded competitively