William "Red" Whittaker

Dr. William “Red” Whittaker is the Fredkin Research Professor of Robotics, Director of the Field Robotics Center, and Chief Scientist of the National Robotics Engineering Consortium , all at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition he is Chief Scientist and Co-Founder of RedZone Robotics, Inc.

Dr. Whittaker’s purpose is to determine the future of field robotics by casting the vision, and creating the technology, robots and leaders of tomorrow. His intent is to change the world by actualizing robots at work,  When he is through, there will be a fundamental shift in the way we build, secure, supply, power and feed the world. Robots will be established as tools for craft, labor and hazardous duty on earth, and will be the workforce of choice beyond this planet. There will be a transformation in the way people live and work. The bounds of human experience will be expanded.

Dr. Whittaker’s research centers on mobile robots in field environments such as work sites and natural terrain; computer architectures to control mobile robots; modeling and planning for non-repetitive tasks; complex problems of objective sensing in random or dynamic environments; and integration of complete field robot systems.  Programs under Dr. Whittaker’s direction include unmanned robots to explore planetary surfaces and volcano interiors, automation of mining machines and farm equipment, remote worksystems for nuclear facility decommissioning   and construction of orbital facilities, mobile robots for hazardous waste site investigation and nuclear accident assessment, and autonomous land vehicle navigation. These include:

Robotic Search for Antarctic Meteorites: autonomous mobile robot and sensors to locate and recover meteorites in Antarctica; Autonomous Rover Technologies:  navigation, perception, planning, and science autonomy for exploration robots; Skyworker: robots to assembly, inspect and maintain orbiting space solar power facilities. Pioneer: a mobile mapping and reconnaissance machine for structural assessment of the damaged Chernobyl nuclear power plant; RoboHost: robotic tour guides for museums; Demeter: mobile robot for unmanned grain harvesting; AutoLoad: technologies to improve productivity and reduce costs of excavation in earthmoving projects; The Atacama Desert Trek: a 200km-long exploration of the Chilean Atacama Desert by a prototype lunar exploration robot ; Mobile Worksystems for Decontamination and Dismantlement: next generation mobile worksystem and scene analysis system for cleanup of facilities within the DOE Nuclear Weapons Complex; Dante I & II: unmanned robots for volcano exploration deployed at Mt. Spurr, Alaska and Mt. Erebus, Antarctica; Tessellator: robot for automated inspection and waterproofing of the Space Shuttle’s Thermal Protection System at Kennedy Space Center; Autonomous Recovery of Buried Objects: robotic excavator using terrain and subsurface perception; Ambler: unmanned robot for the Mars Sample/Return Mission; Locomotion Emulator: mobile robot for research in automated underground coal mining; FastNav: autonomous haulage system for strip mine haulage; Teleoperated robots for Three Mile Island: Remote Reconnaissance Vehicle, and Remote Core Sampler, and Remote Work Vehicle; NavLabs I & II: mobile robots with multi-modal sensing and distributed computing for unmanned ground vehicle research; Robotic Ordnance Disposal: planning, perception and task control software system for robotic recovery of buried ordnance; Robotic Assistant for Environmental Response: mobile robot to work alongside field crews of EPA’s Environmental Response Team during investigation of Superfund sites; Site Investigation Robot: mobile robotic geophysical data acquisition and processing software system prototype for waste site characterization; REX: automated excavator for sensing and exhuming buried pipes; Portable Pipe Mapper: intelligent sensing system to map buried utility lines.


Dr. Whittaker has received numerous awards, including a 1998 Design News Special Achievement Award, Pittsburgh’s 1994 Man of the Year for Technology, a 1994 Aviation and Space Technology Week Laurels Award for outstanding achievement, and Carnegie Mellon’s Teare Award for Teaching Excellence. Science Digest named him one of the top 100 U.S. innovators in 1985 for his work in robotics, and Pittsburgh Magazine named him as one of the most influential technologists of the century. He has served on several select review panels, including the National Academy of Sciences Peer Review Committee on DOE Environmental Management Technologies; the National Research Council Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board; and the National Academy of Sciences Committee to Provide Interim Oversight of the DOE Nuclear Weapons Complex. He is a member of the Center for the Commercial Development of Space, the Space Studies Institute, the American Nuclear Society Robotics and Remote Systems Division and is a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Dr. Whittaker is now or has formerly been thesis advisor for twenty Ph.D. students; he has sixteen patents to his credit, and has authored over 100 publications.