Home' Scoop : Scoop 59 Autumn 2012 Contents 32 SCOOP AUTUMN 2012
Not rocket science? It is for Xavier Orr. This 25-year-old vintage-
car enthusiast is a robotics research and development engineer
who makes unmanned aerial vehicles – in short, robots that fly
themselves words Jenna Shenton portrait Michelle Taylor
Really? Rocket scientist?
Pretty much. ‘Rocket scientist’ is more the
American nickname for aerospace engineering –
which is the kind of work I do on robotic cars,
boats, helicopters and planes.
Do you spend all day flying stuff ?
I got into remote control planes and helicopters
when I was a lot younger, but these days I don’t
have the patience. I write the alg orithms for the
autopilot (robot brain) that controls them. It may
seem like every man’s dream, but about 95 per
cent of my job is mathematics and programming.
It is a lot of fun going out and testing, though.
You’ ve worked at Cyber Technology for
three years. Do you ever pinch yourself ?
Only because my job got off to a fairly bumpy
start. During the first week I was employed,
I went out to the pub with my boss and we
got really drunk. I woke up at his house in the
morning to find I had gotten lost in the middle
of the night and accidentally peed in his open
filing cabinet. His marriage certificate was stuck
to his divorce certificate and all of his personal
paperwork was stuck together. Fortunately he let
it slide and we still laugh about it today.
Do you have your own projects?
I was working on my own robotic helicopter, but
now I’m working on a robot navigation system
and playing with a bit of robot vision. And a few
of my colleagues are having a competition to see
who can build the most capable robot under $100.
What else are you into?
I’ve had an obsession with cars from a young age.
I bought my first car when I was 13. I completely
dismantled it and rebuilt it from the frame up in my
parents’ garage. I love vintage cars – that kind of
style doesn’t exist in modern cars. The car I drive
now is a custom-made replica of a 1930s roadster.
What’s your dream car?
A 1989 Lamborghini Countach. Since I was a
kid I’ve been fascinated with the scissor doors
that open upwards.
My dream is to start my own company
developing new types of robots – humanoid
and walking ones are my favourites.
Do you think we’re far from having personal
robots in our lives?
I think robotic cars are very close indeed.
Mercedes recently demonstrated a very
impressive self-driving robotic car. Personal
humanoid robots may be a bit further off, but
I’m sure it will happen.
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