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Daniel Helmick


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 82-105
Pasadena, CA 91109






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Daniel Helmick

Member of Technical Staff


Daniel Helmick received his B.S degree in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a specialization in controls from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1996 and 1999 respectively. Since June 1999 he has been working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on robotics research projects involving vision/sensor based control of robots, state estimation, and navigation and mobility algorithms. He has worked on robotic vehicles covering a wide range of functionality, including: Mars research rovers for rough terrain mobility; small, tracked robots for urban mobility; a cryobot for ice penetration; and reconfigurable wheeled robots for Mars exploration. His research interests include: sensor-based control of robots, sensor fusion and state estimation, and rover navigation and mobility.


Mechanical Engineering B.S., Virginia Tech 1996

Mechanical Engineering M.S., Georgia Tech, 1999

Professional Experience

- Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Flight Software Team Sample Acquisition/Sample Processing and Handling (SA/SPaH) Subsystem developing software to control various parts of the SA/SPaH subsystem

- Remote Terrain Classification and Terrain-Adaptive Navigation led a
team that developed technologies for Mars rover navigation in rough terrain
including online learning algorithms for predicting slip using mast mounted
cameras, integrated with a path planning algorithm and a slip-compensated path following algorithm

- Mars Science Laboratory Manipulation Technology (Focused Technology Program) developed algorithms and strategies for sample acquisition and handling for a 2009 mission to Mars, including force sensing and control algorithms to enable collection of rock cores with a robotic arm

- Navigation on Slopes led a team of researchers on a Mars Technology Program
project; addressed the problem of Mars rover mobility and navigation on steep,
sandy slopes; used a vision based pose estimation technique (Visual Odometry)
merged with traditional inertial/dead reckoning techniques, implemented with a
Kalman filter; end result was a slip compensation/path following algorithm; tested this algorithm in multiple scenarios, including a week long field-test in the Mojave desert

- Cryobot designed and implemented control system for an ice boring robot
designed for in-situ science of Earth/Mars/Europa ice; aided in a successful field test of vehicle on a glacier in Svalbard, Norway

- DARPA TMR implemented high-speed, autonomous stair climbing algorithm
with a physics-based control algorithm and a Kalman filter to fuse vision and
inertial data for a tracked vehicle used for urban reconnaissance; aided the
development of a 6 DOF Kalman filter pose estimation algorithm

- AXEL ground up mechanical, electrical, and systems design of a novel reconfigurable mobile robot

- Automated Material Transport aided development of a vision-based
autonomous docking algorithm; used a geometric-model-based pose refinement
algorithm for estimating the pose of fork lift pallets

- Rocky 8 mechanical lead on a Mars Technology rover development platform
used for research in navigation, path planning, etc.

Research Interests

sensor-based control of robots
sensor fusion and state estimation
rover mobility and navigation


  1. K Edelberg, P Backes, J Biesiadecki, S Brooks, D Helmick, W Kim, T Litwin B Metz, J Reid, A Sirota, W Ubellacker, P Vieira, "Software System for the Mars 2020 Mission Sampling and Caching Testbeds," DOI: 10.1109/AERO.2018.8396572, 01 January 2018.
  1. D. Helmick, S. McCloskey, A. Okon, J. Carsten, W. Kim, C. Leger, "Mars Science Laboratory Algorithms and Flight Software for Autonomously Drilling Rocks," Journal of Field Robotics, Special Issue on Space Robotics Part 1, Volume 30, Issue 6, 847-874, 01 November 2013.
  1. D. Helmick, A. Angelova, and L. Matthies, "Terrain Adaptive Navigation for Planetary Rovers," Journal of Field Robotics, Volume 26, Issue 4, 391-410, 01 February 2009.
  1. P. Backes, D. Helmick, M. Bajracharya, M. Raythattha, "Visual Feedback for Rover-based Coring," International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Automation in Space (iSAIRAS), 01 January 2008.
  1. A. Mourikis, N. Trawny, S. Roumeliotis, D. Helmick, L. Matthies, "Autonomous Stair Climbing for Tracked Vehicles," International Journal of Computer Vision and International Journal of Robotics Research - Joint Special Issue on Vision and Robotics, vol.26, no.7, pp.737-758, 01 July 2007.
  2. A. Angelova, L.Matthies, D. Helmick, P. Perona, "Learning and prediction of slip from visual information," Journal of Field Robotics, Special Issue on Space Robotics (I), vol.24, no.3, pp.205-231, 01 March 2007.
  3. D. M. Helmick, A. Angelova, M.Livianu, L.H.Matthies, "Terrain adaptive navigation for Mars rovers," IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT, 01 March 2007.
  4. D. Helmick, A. Angelova, M. Livianu, L. Matthies, "Terrain Adaptive Navigation for a Mars Rover," IEEE Aerospace Conference, 01 January 2007.
  5. A. Angelova, L. Matthies, D. Helmick, P. Perona, "Learning Slip Behavior Using Automatic Mechanical Supervision," IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 01 January 2007.
  6. A. Angelova, L. Matthies, D. Helmick, P. Perona, "Fast Terrain Classification Using Variable-Length Representation for Autonomous Navigation," IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), 01 January 2007.
  7. A. Angelova, L. Matthies, D. Helmick, P. Perona, "Dimensionality Reduction Using Automatic Supervision for Vision-Based Terrain Learning," Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS), 01 January 2007.
  1. D. Helmick, "Terrain Adaptive Navigation Architecture for Mars Rovers," New Technology Report, NTR# 44588, 01 October 2006.
  2. D. Helmick,S. Roumeliotis, Y. Cheng, D. Clouse, M. Bajracharya, L. Matthies, "Slip-Compensated Path Following for Planetary Exploration Rovers," Advanced Robotics, 01 October 2006.
  3. A. Angelova, D. Helmick, L. Matthies, P. Perona, "Slip prediction using visual information," Robotics Science and Systems Conference, Philadelphia, PA, 01 August 2006.
  4. A. Angelova, D. Helmick, L.Matthies, P. Perona, "Learning to Predict Slip for Ground Robots," IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Orlando, FL, 01 May 2006.
  5. Daniel Helmick, Avi Okon, and Matt DiCicco, "A Comparison of Force Sensing Techniques for Planetary Manipulation," IEEE Aerospace Conference, 01 March 2006.
  6. D. Helmick, M. DiCicco, "Evaluation of a Low-Temperature Single-Axis Force Sensor for the MSL SA/SPaH Subsystem," JPL Tech Report D-35482, 01 February 2006.
  7. A. Angelova, L. Matthies, D. Helmick, and P. Perona, "Learning and Prediction of Slip Using Visual Information," Journal of Field Robotics, special MTP issue, 01 January 2006.
  1. D. Helmick, S. Roumeliotis, Y. Cheng, D. Clouse, M. Bajracharya, L. Matthies, "Slip Compensation for a Mars Rover," IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 01 August 2005.
  2. D. Helmick and A. Okon, "Manipulator Force Sensing Comparison for MSL," JPL Technical Report, 01 May 2005.
  3. D. Helmick and P. Backes, "Tines/No-Tines Trade-off Study for MSL Coring," JPL Tech Report D-32242, 01 May 2005.
  4. P. Backes, A. Diaz-Calderon, M. Robinson, M. Bajracharya, D. Helmick, "Automated Rover Positioning and Instrument Placement," IEEE Aerospace Conference, 01 March 2005.
  1. D. Helmick, "Slip Compensation/Path Following for a Mars Rover," New Technology Report, NTR# 40703, 01 March 2004.
  2. D.M. Helmick, Y. Cheng, S.I. Roumeliotis, D.S. Clouse, L.H. Matthies, "Path following using visual odometry for a Mars rover in high-slip environments," IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings, 01 March 2004.
  1. D.M. Helmick, S.I. Roumeliotis, M.C. McHenry, and L. Matthies, "Multi-Sensor,High Speed Autonomous Stair Climbing," IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, 01 October 2002.
  2. R. Hogg, A. Rankin, S. Roumeliotis, M. McHenry, D. Helmick, C. Bergh, L. Matthies, "Algorithms and sensors for small robot path following," Proceedings of the 2002 International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Washington D.C., 01 May 2002.
  1. R. Hogg, A. Rankin, M. McHenry, D. Helmick, C. Bergh, S. Roumeliotis, and L. Matthies, "Sensors and algorithms for small robot leader/follower behavior," Proceedings of the SPIE AeroSense Symposium. Orlando, 01 April 2001.
  2. W.S. Kim, D.M. Helmick, and A. Kelly, "Model-Based Object Pose Refinement For Terrestrial and Space Autonomy," International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in Space, 01 January 2001.