Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


Professor Wen-Hua Chen FIEEE CEng FIMechE FIET

Photo of Professor Wen-Hua Chen

Professor in Autonomous Vehicles

EPSRC Established Career Fellow


Wen-Hua obtained his BEng in Industrial Automation from the Department of Electrical Engineering at Jiangsu University in 1986 and subsequently his MSc and PhD in Control Engineering from the Department of Automatic Control at Northeastern University, China, in 1989 and 1991, respectively. He worked as a Lecturer and Associate Professor at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, China from 1991 and from 1997, and served as the Head of Division in Control Theory and Applications. He was a Research Associate (affiliated with Department of Mechanical Engineering) and then Lecturer (affiliated with Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering) in the Centre for Systems and control at the University of Glasgow, Scotland between 1997 and 2000. In the end of 2000, Wen-Hua joined the Department of Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering at Loughborough University as a Lecturer and subsequently Senior Lecturer in Flight Control Systems. In 2012, Wen-Hua was appointed to the Chair in Autonomous Vehicles. He is now mainly interested in the development and application of autonomous system technologies in a wide range of areas from aerospace, automotive to agriculture, environment monitoring and disaster/emergency managements.    


  • BEng in Industrial Automation, Jiangsu University, 1986
  • MSc in Control Engineering (Thesis: Intelligent control of Electrode Systems of Arc Furnaces), Northeastern University, 1989
  • PhD in Control Engineering (Thesis: Robust control of dynamic systems in the presence of disturbance and parametric uncertainties using game theory), Northeastern University, 1991
  • Chartered Engineer (CEng) 2015
  • Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (FIMechE) 2015
  • Fellow of Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) 2013
  • Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) since 2018
  • Fellow of the High Education Academy, UK (FHEA) 2003.

Key Awards and acomplishments: 

  • Award of EPSRC Established Career Fellowship (2020-2025)
  • Participated or coordinated research projects with a total budget of £10M.
  • Published about 280 papers in international journal and conferences.
  • Author of the most popular paper on Automatica in 2003.
  • Elected as “Changjiang Scholar” by the Ministry of Education of China in 2014
  • Attracted fund supporting research from EPSRC, STFC, BAE Systems, Thales, the European Space Agency and Royal Society.
  • Charles Shape Beecher Prize from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers  in 2013
  • Loughborough Excellence Awards for Developing Research Leadership, 2013.


Outline of main research interests

Research interests and activities:

  • The development of fundamental control theory for highly automated systems:  Driven by the needs of moving from low levels to high levels of automations and the widely applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) techniques, a Goal-Oriented Control Systems (GOCS) framework has been proposed to develop generic and fundamental theories to ensure safety and performance in the design and deployment of this type of autonomous and intelligent systems. It also aims to develop effective and efficient tools for analysis and design of autonomous systems in a similar way as the current control theory for low level, automatic control systems.
  • The development of advanced control theory and their applications: Significant original contributions have been made in nonlinear control and robust control, particularly in the development of disturbance observer based control techniques (DOBC) for nonlinear systems under disturbance and(or) uncertainty, and model predictive control (MPC) of nonlinear systems. Applications are focused on flight control of helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and spacecraft. 
  • Signal processing: Computer vision, data fusion, tracking with GMTI radar, multiple target tracking, Bayesian estimation, particle filtering techniques, real-time signal processing with the help of domain knowledge/world models.
  • Development of autonomous system technologies: Autopilot, navigation, data and information fusion, collision avoidance, path planning, mission planning, conditional and heath monitoring, situational awareness, decision making under uncertainty, autonomous taxiing, terminal area operation of unmanned aircraft, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS),  system integration, and flight tests.    
  • Application of autonomous system technologies: A wide range of applications of autonomous system/vehicle technologies have been researched particularly in agriculture and environment monitoring. Water management, weed management, pest and disease monitoring, chemical, biological and radiation substance monitoring/search, communication relay with UAVs, and disaster and emergency managements.
  • Safety and verification and validation of autonomous system technologies: Safety is embedded in the core heart of our research particularly for the operation of autonomous vehicles in public domains. Research in this area consists of two directions: the development of safety functions for autonomous vehicles or other vehicles,  and the development of efficient verification and validation technologies for autonomous functions. For the former, active contingence management such as autonomous forced landing techniques has been developed with BAE Systems. For the latter, automatic worst case search and reachability analysis are main techniques that have been developed. 

Research groups:

  • Control and Reliability

Grants and contracts

Major grants:

  • Goal-Oriented Control Systems (GOCS): Disturbance, Uncertainty and Constraints. EPSRC. EP/T005734/1. £1.6M. 02/2020-01/2025. Principal Investigator.
  • Enabling wide area persistent remote sensing for agriculture applications through developing and coordinating heterogenous platforms. Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Newton Fund. ST/N006852/1, £1.5M. 01/05/2016-31/12/2019.  PI.
  • Signal Processing Solutions for the Networked Battle Space. £3.67M, EPSRC/Dstl (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory).  UDRC (University Defence Research Centre), EP/K014307/1. 01/04/2013-30/06/2018. Co-investigator.
  • Towards More Autonomy for Unmanned Vehicles: Situational Awareness and Decision Making under Uncertainty. EPSRC. EP/J011525/1. 01/03/2012--30/12/2016. £1M, Principal Investigator. 

Small Grants:

  • Disturbance observer based control for a Compound Rotorcraft. $400K. Korea Agency for Defence Development. 2020-2021.
  • Space-enabled Crop disEase maNagement sErvice via Crop sprAying Drones (SCENE-CAD). STFC ST/V00137X/1.  £400K. 1/03/2020-28/02/2022.
  • Utilizing Earth Observation and UAV technologies to deliver pest and disease products and services to end users in China. Innovate UK 99669-583179. BB/S020977/1. £1M, CoI (PI: CABI), 02/2019-01.2022
  • Autonomous Search for Chemical Release with a pocket-sized Drone [SceneSEARCH], Phase I and II Autonomy in Hazardous Scene Assessment, Dstl, 01/10/2016-30/09/2018.


1. Outline of My Research Vision and Background

Wen-Hua Chen Article - IEEE Control systems magazine 2018

2. Sustainable Agriculture with Autonomous System Technologies

Recently I have developed a strong interest in applying autonomous system technologies in tackling global challenges such as food security and environment protection. I have been leading an international team working on the development of remote sensing and spraying for agriculture applications using unmanned aircraft systems and other robotics and autonomous technologies. My team works very closely with partners from CABI, Manchester, Cranfield, East Mailing Research of NIAB, King’s College and Bluebear Research in the UK, Northwest University of Agriculture & Forestry, the Digital Earth and Remote Sensing Institute of Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing University, Jiangsu University and others in China, and other partners in India and Africa. So far, 7 projects with a total budge of over £3M have been secured from STFC, BBSRC, and Innovate UK. These projects are aimed to support precision agriculture in the UK, China and other countries so as to reduce the use of resources (e.g. water, land) and the environment impact of using fertiliser, pesticides and herbicides by providing real-time site specific information and targeted variable rate of treatment and crop management using remote sensing and automated spraying technologies. The technologies can find a wide range of applications in other developed countries (e.g. wild animal monitoring, and environment protection).
Autonomous system technologies also provide a promising solution for dealing with agriculture challenges faced in developing countries such as shortage of seasonal labours. Here with our vision of [future smart agriculture-video] (courtesy to my PhD student Tianxiang Zhang).

3. Autonomous Airborne Hazard Material Search and Monitoring

Hazardous material detection, source search and coverage monitoring are importance for many applications; for example, air quality monitoring, accidently released of hazard substance, disaster management, and anti-terrorist. Here [Video explanation of our motivation and the theoretic algorithms underpinning our autonomous search systems] (courtesy to my PhD student Michael Hutchinson).

We have conducted the world first experimental tests of cognitive search of chemical sources. [Video clip of field trials of our unmanned aerial vehicle based autonomous gas leakage search systems].


Recent publications: 

  • J Su, W Yi, C Liu, B Su, X XU, L Guo and W-H Chen (2020). Aerial Visual Perception in Smart Farming: Field Study of Wheat Yellow Rust Monitoring. IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics. DOI: 10.1109/TII.2020.2979237
  • M Hutchinson, C Liu, P Thomas, and W-H Chen (2020). Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Based HAZMAT Response: Information-theoretic Hazardous Source Search and Reconstruction. IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine. DOI: 10.1109/MRA.2019.2943006
  • D Yi, L Hu, J Su, C Liu, M Quddus and W-H Chen (2020). Implicit Personalization in Driving Assistance: State-of-the-Art and Open Issues. IEEE Transactions on Intelligent VehiclesDOI: 10.1109/TIV.2019.2960935.
  • P Ladosz, HD Oh, G Zheng, and W-H Chen (2019). GP-Based Channel Prediction for Relay UAV in Urban Environments. IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems. DOI: 10.1109/TAES.2019.2917989
  • J Su and W-H Chen (2019). Model-Based Fault Diagnosis System Verification Using Reachability Analysis. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics: Systems. Vol.49, No.4, pp.742 – 751. DOI: 10.1109/TSMC.2017.2710132.
  • J Su, B Li, and W-H Chen (2015). On existence, optimality and asymptotic stability of the Kalman filter with partially observed inputs. Automatica. Vol.53, No.3, pp.149–154. doi:10.1016/j.automatica.2014.12.044.

Selected Publications:

Pioneering work of developing the nonlinear disturbance observer technique was first reported in the paper.

  • W.-H. Chen, D. J. Ballance, P. J. Gawthrop and J. O’Reilly (2000). A nonlinear disturbance observer for robotic manipulators. IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics. Vol. 47, No.4, pp.932--938. DOI: 10.1109/41.857974

Please see the following review paper of the disturbance observer based control and its related methods.

  • W.-H. Chen, J. Yang, L Guo and S. Li (2016). Disturbance observer based control and related methods: an Overview. IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics. Vol. 63, No. 2, pp.1083-1095. DOI: 10.1109/TIE.2015.2478397.

A number of original contributions have been made in the development of model predictive control of nonlinear systems including stability theory, analytical solutions, design methods and its applications in control and path planning for autonomous vehicles. The following paper presents a new MPC for nonlinear systems and establishes its relationship with the well-known feedback linearsation technique. 

  • W.-H. Chen, D.J. Ballance and P.J. Gawthrop (2003). Optimal Control of Nonlinear Systems: A Predictive Control Approach. Automatica. Vol.39, No.4, pp.633-641.

Path planning is a core technology for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles. The following survey paper outlines the recent developments in this hot area.

  • C. Katrakazas, M. Quddus, W-H. Chen and L. Deka (2015). Real-time motion planning methods for autonomous on-road driving: State-of-the-art and future research directions.  Transportation Research Part C Emerging Technologies. Vol. 60, Pages 416–442.

Our group also has a strong interest in the applications of autonomous vehicle/system technologies for agriculture and environment event monitoring. The survey paper overviews the hazard substance monitoring using static and mobile sensors. 

  • M Hutchinson, HD Oh and W-H Chen (2017). A review of source term estimation methods for atmospheric dispersion events using static or mobile sensors. Information Fusion. Vol. 36, July, pp.130–148.

 View central admin publications database

Current teaching responsibilities:

  • No Current teaching responsibilities
  • Delivery of selected lectures and seminars benefitting from specialist research knowledge

Current administrative responsibilities: 

  • Leader of Control and Reliability Research Group
  • Core member of the EPSRC/Dstl University Defence Research Collaborations (UDRC)

External collaborators:

  • BAE Systems
  • Swarm Systems
  • Roke Manor
  • Dstl
  • Cranfield University
  • Manchester University
  • Surrey University
  • Cardiff University
  • Strathclyde University
  • Newcastle University
  • Beihang University
  • Jiangsu University
  • Southeast University

External roles and appointments:

  • Visiting Professor at Beihang University (2014-) and Jiangsu University (2017-)
  • Member of EPSRC Peer Review College (2016-)
  • Member of Steering Committee of EPSRC Network in Verification and Validation of Autonomous Systems (2016-)
  • Editorial board membership: Unmanned Systems; International Journal of Intelligent Computing and Cybernetics.
  • Member of IEEE Technical Committee on Aerospace Control.
  • Member of Autonomous Systems National Technical Committee, technology strategic board.
  • Advisory roles: Panel member for EU Framework Programme projects; Research proposal reviewer for The Israel Science Foundation, Romania National Council for Development and Innovation, and the Ministry of Education of China; Proposal reviewer for the Royal Society and the UK Space Agency, 
  • International conference organisation: Involved in organising about 30 international conferences in the last 5 years (e.g. in 2016, Associate Editor of International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Washington DC, USA.  June 7-10; IPC member of Sensor Signal Processing for Defence Conference (SSPD), Edinburgh, 22- 23 September; IPC member of UKACC International Conference on Control, Belfast, UK, 31st August - 2nd September; IPC Member of Chinese Control Conference. Chengdu, 27-30 July, 2016; IPC member of The 22th World Congress on Intelligent Control and Automation. Guilin, 12-15 JUNE; Regional Chair of 2016 IEEE Chinese Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference. Nanjing, August 12-14; IPC member of MED'16: The 24th Mediterranean Conference on Control and Automation, Athens, Greece, June 21-24.) .
  • Invited lectures: Invited talks in UK universities (e.g. Cambridge University, Sheffield, Oxford, Warwick, Southampton, Liverpool, and Lancaster), and international universities (e.g. University of Tokyo, Tokyo University of Technology, Keio University, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Beihang University, Southeast University, Northeastern and Jiangsu).
  • Regular Reviewer for all the major journals in control engineering including Automatica; ASME Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Control; European Journal of Control; International Journal of Control; Proceedings of IMechE: Journal of Systems and Control Engineering; International Journal of Robust and Nonlinear Control; IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technologies; IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control; IEE Proceedings Part-D: Control Theory and Applications; International Journal of Systems Science; IEEE/ASME Transactions of Mechatronics; IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks, Control Engineering Practice
  • Collaborative Research: closely work with BAE Systems and the European Space Agency (ESA).