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Ze Ji

Dr Ze Ji

Senior lecturer
Teaching and research

School of Engineering

+44 29208 70017
Queen's Buildings - South Building, Room Room S/3.07, 5 The Parade, Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 3AA
Available for postgraduate supervision


I maintain my personal website externally. 

I am the recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineering Industrial Fellowship, hosted by Spirent Communications Ltd. 

I am a senior lecturer of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the School of Engineering, Cardiff University, and the Group leader of Robotics and Autonomous Intelligent Machines (RAIM). I am also the co-investigator/theme leader of the IROHMS (Research Centre for AI, Robotics and Human Machine Systems) funded by ERDF through WEFO.

I am the associate editor of the Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part C: Journal of Mechanical Engineering Science and IEEE Access

I am managing the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Laboratory, which provides cutting-edge robotic facilities, including two Kuka Lbr iiwa robots, Robotnik Vogue, three Kuka youbots, some turtlebots, some drones, advanced vision systems (3D cameras, etc), and sensors. We have also built two USVs (unmanned surface vehicles) with student projects in the past years.

I have held multiple positions as a robotics and autonomous systems researcher and engineer in both academia and industry (Dyson, Lenovo, and Autonomous Surface Vehicles). My PhD was sponsored as part of the EU FP6 project, TAI- CHI (Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer Human Interaction), which won the best exhibit prize of EU FP6 exhibition in Helsinki, Finland, in 2006.

I have broad experience in robotics, including indoor mobile robots, industrial robot manipulators, humanoid robots, and outdoor unmanned autonomous surface vehicles. My research is primarily focused on Robot Perception And Learning (RoPAL), covering a broad range of subjects, including simulataneous localisation and mapping (SLAM), robot vision, robot reinforcement learning, tactile sensing, deep learning, smart sensing, and their applications on autonomous robot navigation, manipulation and, more broadly, smart manufacturing.

At Dyson, as a robotics systems engineer, I have filed and published patents in the area of mobile robotics. The main project there was the Dyson 360 robot, which utilises a 360 camera for indoor localisation and mapping (Visual SLAM). I worked at Lenovo on service robotics, as a Robotic Systems Architect and Technical Leader of a team of 10 researchers and engineers with background of machine learning, computer vision, slam, cloud, and IoT. At ASV (Autonomous Surface Vehicles), I have successfully, as a core research member, delivered several projects funded by innovate UK, DSTL, and NOC/SBRI. Before these, I had been working as a research fellow in academia for a number of EU FP6 & FP7 projects, such as TAI-CHI, IWARD (Intelligent Robot Swarm for Attendance, Recognition, Cleaning, and Delivery), ROBOSKIN (Skin-based technologies and capabilities for safe, autonomous and interactive robots), and SRS (Multi-Role Shadow Robotic System for Independent Living).

Here is the group Github account for projects carried out with our RoPAL team.


















Book sections




We envisage an enhanced robot cognitive capability through deploying advanced multi-modal perceptual capabilities from sensors of vision, tactile, lidar, etc, and continuous self-learning to understand the environment in 3D, predict situations via machine/deep learning, and support humans for real-world problems. We aim to endow a higher level of autonomy to robots and unmanned systems, providing capabilities of advanced situation awareness, multi-modal sensing, robot active learning, localisation and mapping, optimal path planning, and multiple robot collaboration.

My group’s research interests can be loosely divided into the following areas:

  • Deep Reinforcement Learning for robot navigation and manipulation
  • State Estimation, e.g. Visual SLAM and Visual Odometry
  • Sensor-guided autonomous robot navigation and manipulation
  • Multi-modal robot sensing, such as robot vision, tactile sensing, etc.
  • Computer Vision and Data-driven learning-based methods for smart manufacturing, including in-situ monitoring, surface 3D metrology, robotic assembly and so on







Ze Ji (Academic Champion)

Royal Academy of Engineering


Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor for Raphael Grech (Spirent)

Sep 2023 - Sep 2026

Ze Ji

DTII, Cardiff University


Enhancing Autonomous Systems with Multi-Modal Sensor-based Environment Digitalisation: Ensuring Safety, Security, and Reliability

June 2023 - July 2023

Ze Ji

DTP (EPSRC) (PhD Studentship)


Robot Learning for Manipulation

Oct 2023 - Apr 2027

Ze Ji

Royal Academy of Engineering Industrial Fellowship


Active Perception and Learning for Autonomous Navigation

Sep 2022 - Sep 2024

Ze Ji, Yukun Lai

EPSRC (New Horizons)


PHYDL: Physics-informed Differentiable Learning for Robotic Manipulation of Viscous and Granular Media

Jan 2023 - Dec 2024

Haijiang Li, Abhishek Kundu, Ze Ji (CoI)

Industry partners: Centregreat Rail, Crouch Waterfall, Centregreat Engineering)



DIGIBRIDGE: Physics-informed digital twin supported smart bridge maintenance

Nov 2021 - Dec 2022

Ze Ji

Industry (Spirent) - Full-time PhD studentship


Reinforcement Learning for autonomous navigation with GNSS-based localisation

2021 - 2024

Haijiang Li, Ze Ji (Co-I, Knowledge Supervisor), Abhishek Kundu

Innovate UK/KTP


BIM and Digital Twins in support of Smart Bridge Structural Surveying

Sep 2021-Sep 2024

Ze Ji

Royal Society


Active Robot Learning for Subtractive, Formative, and Additive Manipulations of Granular and Viscous Materials

09 Mar 2020 - 08 Mar 2021

Setchi, R., Ji, Z., (ENGIN)

Jones, D., Morgan, P., (PSYCH)

Allen, S., Eslambolchilar, P. (COMSC)


£4,600,000 (including match funding from Cardiff University)

Research Centre in AI, Robotics and Human-Machine Systems (IROHMS)

1 Apr 19 – 1 Sept 23

Bigot, S., Ji, Z., Packianather, M., Kerfriden, P.

EU H2020

€ 476,000

Additive Manufacturing using Metal Pilot Line (MANUELA)

Oct 2018 - Sep 2022

Setchi, R., Ji, Z., Evans, S.



Deep Learning Enabled Wing Box Inspection (DEWI)

1 Jul 19 – 30 Sep 19

Ji Z (PI), Setchi R, Bigot S

Renishaw and Cardiff University Strategic Fund


3D characterisation of ALM processes

01 Apr 2019 - 31 Mar 2020

Ji Z (PI), Wu J, Setchi R.

Renishaw and Cardiff University Strategic Fund

£40,000 cash funding from the strategic partnership fund (total project value: £101,332)

Pushing the boundary of vision-based 3D surface imaging

01 Apr 2018 - 31 Mar 2019

Setchi R., Ji Z.

WEFO through ASTUTE and Industry

£884,673 including £652,661 from Continental and £232,012 from WEFO

Additive Manufacturing and Robotics to Support Improved Response to Increased Flexibility

02 Feb 2018 – 01 Feb 19

Research Areas

Robot Reinforcement Learning:

Reinforcement Learning is a new emerging area that paves a new direction to allow robots to learn new skills for situations when hand-coding is not suitable.

The current work aims to research and develop a self-learning system for a robot to manipulate objects in cluttered workspace for tasks that require multiple steps.

Watch a video of the research on YouTube

The following video shows the work of using Reinforcement Learning to train a robot to navigate and avoid collision.

Watch the video of the research on YouTube

Mobile Robots:

One of my most valuable experience in this area is the work on the Dyson 360 Robot project. My interests include Robot Autonomous Navigation, Visual SLAM, Visual Servoing, and Vision Odometry

Watch a video of the research on YouTube

Another project is the EU FP7 project, SRS, which focused on the development and prototyping of remotely-controlled, semi-autonomous robotic solutions in domestic environments to support elderly people.

SRS project (Service Robot)

Autonomous Vehicles:

As part of my teaching activities (Mechatronics module), I led a few team of students in the past years to build USVs (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) and UAVs.

Watch a video of the research on YouTube

Related research includes robot behaviours, such as computer vision and sensor fusion for collision avoidance, vehicle collaboration, situation awareness and action planning.

Sensing (Acoustic Localisation for Human Computer Interaction):

This is my very early research for my PhD project, which is part of a EU FP6 project, "Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer Human Interaction".

Tactile Sensing and Human Robot Interaction:

This is also my early research working as a research fellow for the EU FP7 project, RoboSkin, developing machine learning algorithms for recognising the types of human touch using large scale tactile sensors.



  • EN4110 Mechatronics Design


  • EN3062 Robotics and Image Processing (Module leader)
  • EN4062 Advanced Robotics (Module leader)
  • EN4110 Mechatronics Design


  • EN4110 Mechatronics Design
  • EN3062 Robotics and Image Processing
  • EN4062 Advanced Robotics
  • ENT604 Measurement Systems (Module Leader)


  • EN4100 Mechatronics Design
  • EN4062 Advanced Robotics
  • ENT604 Measurement Systems (Module Leader)


  • EN4100 Mechatronics Design
  • ENT604 Measurement Systems
  • Others, including Design and Lab



  • 2007: PhD (Systems Engineering) Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  • 2003: MSc (Computer Science) University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  • 2001: BEng (Electronic Engineering), Jilin University, China

Honours and awards

  • The paper titled “Anisotropic GPMP2: A Fast Continuous-Time Gaussian Processes Based Motion Planner for Unmanned Surface Vehicles in Environments With Ocean Currents”, has been awarded IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering Best New Application Paper Award, as the single awardee in the the 2023 round (
  • Won the best Exhibit for the EU FP6 project TAI-CHI "Tangible Acoustic Interface for Human Computer Interaction" in EC IST Exhibition, Helsinki, Finland, 2006
  • Best paper award, TAROS, Bristol, 2018
  • Second Prize in the International Marine Vehicle Design and Construction Invitational Contest 2019, Harbin, China

Professional memberships

  • Member of IEEE
  • Member of the British Machine Vision Association (BMVA)
  • Fellow of The Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Member of The Society of Research Software Engineering

Academic positions

  • 2020 - present: Senior Lecturer of robotics and autonomous systems, Cardiff University
  • 2016 - 2020: Lecturer of robotics and autonomous systems, Cardiff University
  • 2014 - 2016: Unmanned Systems Engineer (R&D), ASV ltd
  • 2013 - 2014: Robotics Systems Engineer (R&D), Dyson Ltd
  • 2009 - 2011: Research Fellow, Adaptive System Research Group, University of Hertfordshire
  • 2007 - 2013: Research Fellow, Cardiff University

Speaking engagements

  • Invited keynote talk at the IEEE ISRIMT 2021 conference organised by Hohai University, China.
  • Interviewed by BBC Radio Wales - Science Cafe ( 21 July 2020
  • Invited Speaker at CoInnovate, Cardiff (, 24 Jan 2018
  • Invited talks to several universities, including Essex University, Waikato University, Nankai University, Shandong University etc (2018 – 2021)

Committees and reviewing

  • External PhD examiner for the University of Manchester (2023)
  • External PhD examiner for the University of Birmingham (2022)
  • External PhD examiner for University College, London (2021)
  • Associate Editor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems section of the “Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part C (JMES)” (since 2021)
  • Technical Program Committee of the IEEE ISRIMT 2021 (The 3rd international symposium on Robotics and Intelligent Manufacturing Technology) conference organised by Hohai University, China.
  • Regional chair and session chair of IEEE ICCSE 2021
  • Associate Editor of IEEE Access (since 2020)
  • International Programme Committee of KES 2021 conference
  • Reviewer of several international journals and conferences, including
    • IEEE Sensors Journal,
    • IEEE Transactions on Robotics
    • IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
    • IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems
    • IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RAL)
    • Journal of Field Robotics
    • Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing
    • Measurement Science and Technology,
    • several major conferences, including ICRA, IROS, CASE etc


I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

  • Robot Learning (Deep Reinforcement Learning)
  • State Estimation for autonomous navigation, e.g. SLAM, VO
  • Robotic Perception / Sensing / Visual Servoing for grasping and manipulation
  • Computer Vision / 3D Imaging
  • Tactile Sensing

Current Supervision

Current PhD students at Cardiff University:

  • Xintong Yang (2019 - 2023, submitted): Deep Reinforcement Learning for task-oriented object manipulation
  • Feiqiang Lin (2019 - ): Deep Reinforcement Learning for fail-safe localisation navigation
  • Prasad Rayamane (2019 - ): Optical Tactile Sensing for manipulation
  • Yan Gao (2020 - ): Deep Reinforcement Learning-based autonomous exploration with hierarchical spatial representation
  • Fraser McGhan (2021 - ): Deep Reinforcement Learning for robust autonomous navigation with GNSS-based localisation
  • Yixin Chen (2021 - , MPhil): Visual SLAM for autonomous navigation
  • Boliang Cai (2021 -): Safe Reinforcement Learning for Robotics
  • (Co-Supervisor) Peter Herbert (2020 - ): Visual SLAM
  • (Co-Supervisor) Jingwen Sun (2020 - ): Relational-learning for object-level scene representation and navigation


External Student Supervision: 

MSc students in collaboration with the University of Antwerp:

  • Ms Daniëlle Jongstra: Learning-based Robot Social Navigation (2021-2022)
  • Mr Wei Wei: Grasping Regions through Learning and Computer Vision Techniques (2021-2022)
  • Mr Kristof Egghe: Robot Manipulation in Clutter with Deep Reinforcement Learning (2021-2022)

MSc/PhD students in collaboration with National University of Colombia:

  • Mr Juan S. Hernandez Reyes (MSc student): Reinforcement Learning for Robot Navigation (current, 2021 - now)

Current supervision

Xintong Yang

Xintong Yang

Research Associate

Njuod Alsudays

Njuod Alsudays

Research student

Tony Wang Wang

Tony Wang Wang

Research student

LÉopold Le Roux

LÉopold Le Roux

Research student

Yan Gao

Yan Gao

Research student

Feiqiang Lin

Feiqiang Lin

Research student

Yan Gao

Yan Gao

Research student

Boliang Cai

Boliang Cai

Research student

Meiyuan Gong

Meiyuan Gong

Research student

Fraser Mcghan

Fraser Mcghan

Research student

Francisco Munguia Galeano Munguia Galeano

Francisco Munguia Galeano Munguia Galeano

Research student


  • Field robotics
  • Intelligent robotics
  • Control engineering, mechatronics and robotics
  • Manufacturing robotics
  • Reinforcement learning