Dr. Anil Rao, University of Florida at Gainsville

Life and work at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
September 24, 2019


A novel computational framework is described for solving complex constrained nonlinear optimal control problems. The framework has a wide variety of applications in aerospace and mechanical engineering. The basis of the framework is the new class of hp-adaptive Gaussian quadrature methods that transcribe the continuous optimal control problem to a finite-dimensional nonlinear optimization problem. The hp-adaptive methods have the feature that high accuracy can be obtained with a significantly smaller mesh when compared with traditional fixed-order methods while accurately capturing non-smoothness or rapidly changing behavior. The hp-adaptive methods are employed using advanced sparse nonlinear programming (NLP)  solvers. The derivatives required by the NLP solvers are obtained using a new approach to algorithmic differentiation where efficient derivative source code is produced through a method that combines operator overloading with source transformation. The mathematical foundation of the framework is provided and examples are given that demonstrate the improvement over previously developed approaches. Finally, future directions of the approach are discussed.


Dr. Anil Rao

He earned his BS in mechanical engineering and AB in mathematics from Cornell University, his MSE in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan, and his MA and PhD from Princeton University. After earning his PhD, he joined The Aerospace Corporation. Subsequently, he was a Senior Member of the Technical Staff at The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. Concurrent with his employment at Draper, from 2001 to 2006 he was an adjunct faculty in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at Boston University (BU). Since 2006 he has been a member of the faculty in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida (UFL) where he is currently a Full Professor, Erich Farber Faculty Fellow, a University Term Professor, and the director of the Vehicle Dynamics and Optimization Laboratory. He is active in many professional societies as an Associate Editor of the Journal of the Astronautical Sciences and Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications, a Member of the AAS, and a member of SIAM. He has won numerous teaching and research awards in his career including the Department Teacher of the Year awards at BU(2002 and 2006) and UFL (2008), the College of Engineering Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award at BU (2004), the Book of the Year Award at Draper Laboratory (2006), the Pramod P. Khargonekar Junior Faculty Award (2012) at UFL, and is an Associate Fellow of the AIAA.