Head of Research Institute

+44 (0)131 451 8277
Room 2.41
Earl Mountbatten Building
Heriot-Watt University
Yvan Petillot

Yvan specialises in robotics and sensing and is an expert in autonomous systems, image analysis and control applied to the subsea domain. He has made major contributions in sonar image processing and target detection and recognition.  He manages a portfolio of £1M grants covering all aspects of underwater signal processing from MIMO and bio-inspired sonar systems to seabed classification and automatic target detection in clutter

Selected publications

A list of all research publications is available on the Research Gateway


Yvan Petillot is a Professor of Robotics and Computer Vision at Heriot-Watt University. He is a leading member of the Oceans Systems Laboratory, the deputy director of the Institute for Sensor Signals and Systems and the deputy director of the joint research institute in Signal and Image Processing (ERP-SIP) with Edinburgh University. He is also currently a Royal Society Industry Fellow in collaboration with SeeByte Ltd, a company he co-founded in 2001 and in which he was Chief Technical Officer until 2010. With over 15 years experience in Robotics, Image Processing and Autonomous Systems in the maritime domain, he has made very significant contributions to target detection and classification multiple vehicle collaboration and autonomous inspection and manipulation. He has a long history of successful collaborations with other leading researchers in Europe through a number of European Research Projects (ALIVE, Autotracker, Amason, 2005, FreeSubNet 2008, Trident, 2010, Eurathlon 2012) totaling over £1.5M of research funding. He had also been working closely with MOD and DSTL on defense related projects and secured a number of EPSRC projects in the robotics and signal processing areas. He was recently awarded a programme grant in Signal Processing for the Networked battle space in collaboration with Edinburgh University and is leading the research in the maritime domain. He created the first European Competition in Underwater Robotics for autonomous systems in 2006, with support from EPSRC and MOD and has led this effort since in collaboration with the NATO Undersea Research Centre. He has since been awarded and European Union Funded project (Eurathlon) to develop a real-world competition for disaster relief covering the air, land and sea domains.

In parallel, Professor Petillot has a unique track record in technology transfer and engagement with industry. He co-founded SeeByte Ltd in 2001 and led the transitioning of research, technology and personnel from the University to the company. Of note were the successful transfer of the Autotracker EU funded project, now a product in SeeByte ltd sold worldwide, the transfer of MOD funded collaborative framework for multi-vehicle collaboration, evaluated by the US Navy under their Foreign Competitive Technology framework and now a product sold to the US and UK Navies.