Engineering Design Projects (ES 100), the capstone course at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, challenges seniors to engineer a creative solution to a real-world problem.
RISC-V Architecture for Faster Motion Planning in Autonomous Drones
Anthony Kenny, S.B. ’20, electrical engineering
Autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) require highly specialized computer processors to be able to pilot themselves. Developing application specific processors is often expensive and difficult task. So Anthony used an open source instruction set architecture, RISC-V, to help streamline the process for building better motion planning processors. He designed a hardware accelerator, taking advantage of parallelization, that detects collisions five times faster than a regular CPU, and then showed how it could be implemented into a specialized motion planning processor for use in autonomous UAVs. For Anthony, the biggest challenge of this project was learning to use the RISC-V instruction set architecture, since it was completely new to him. Working on the project also taught him how to define a problem and manage a project aimed at solving that problem.
“My hope is that this project presents a compelling argument for computer architects that RISC-V is an excellent and under-utilized opportunity for advancing autonomous UAV development,” he said.