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Daniele Pucci

Head of the Dynamic Interaction Control research Line

Research Line

Dynamic Interaction Control


IIT Central Research Lab Genova

+39 010 71781 420
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I received the bachelor and master degrees in Control Engineering with highest honors from "Sapienza", University of Rome, in 2007 and 2009, respectively. I also received the "Academic Excellence Award" from Sapienza in 2009. In 2013, I received the PhD title in Information and Communication Technologies from University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, with a thesis prepared at INRIA Sophia Antipolis, France, under the supervision of Tarek Hamel, and Claude Samson. The PhD program was jointly with Sapienza, university of Rome, so I also received a PhD in Control Engineering from “Sapienza".


Current position

Since August 2017, I am a research scientist leading the Dynamic Interaction Control lab at IIT. Our research can be decomposed into three research axes: bipedal-locomotion, physical-human-robot-interaction, and aerial-humanoid-robotics. The young, dynamic, and highly motivated team is composed of 25 persons.


2015-2017, Senior postdoc, team leader of four PhD students  

From 2015 to August 2017 I have been a senior postdoc within the Dynamic Interaction Control Lab. I have beed coordinating four PhD students. 

Their domain of expertise is on planning, estimation, and control of floating base systems. Francesco Romano graduated in 2016, and is now a research engineer at Google DeepMind

          Francesco Romano             Yeshasvi Tirupachuri            Marie Charbonneau                  Gabriele Nava




2013-2015,  postdoc, in the coordination PI team of the CoDyCo project

From 2013 to 2015, I have been a  postdoc responsible for the experimental activities associated with the deliverables of CoDyCo, project number: 600716 FP7-ICT-2011.2.1 Cognitive Systems and Robotics. The project has been graded as excellent for four years. Given the success of the experimental activities obtained as an outocme of the project, I have been included in the coordination PI team of the project - see video below, minute 1:55 - coordinating a team of three PhD students.




Control Robotics Mechanics


The research activities of the Dynamic Interaction Control lab can be decomposed into several research axes


The goal of this research axis is to endow the humanoid robot iCub with a degree of bipedal locomotion. Prior to locomotion, the balancing capability is a fundamental property that must be studied and implemented on the robot. The video below show the balancing capacity of iCub. 


 While the following video shows improved balancing capibilities and preliminary bipedal locomotion of the humanoid robot iCub.


Futuristic robots will be physically interacting with huaman beings. For this, it is fundamental to conceive control algorithms for humanoid robots interacting with a user. The video below shows some of the results in  physical-human-robot-interaction control. The user wears a sensorised suit retriving information used by the robot (human joint positions, velocities, and torques). The results were shown during the last year review meeting of the CoDyCo european project.

Aerial Humanoid Robotics

Some of the effort of my research group is on conceiving a new branch of Robotics implementing a degree of manipulation, and aerial and terrestrial locomotion. Among the infinity of platforms that may implement these three capacities, we have started to investigate the possibility of making a humanoid robot fly. The video below show preliminary results in aerial humanoid robotics. For further information, take a look at either the scientific paper or at the divulgative article that  IEEE Spectrum wrote about our work.

 In the following video, Richard Browning, test pilot of Gravity Industries, performs a demonstration at the IIT showing the engineering feasibility of the Aerial Humanoid Robotics

The PhD project 

During my PhD project, I mainly worked on three domains.

Aerial Robotics 

Feedback control of aerial vehicles in order to achieve some degree of autonomy remains an active research domain after decades of studies in the subject. The complexity of aerodynamic effects and the diversity of flying vehicles partly account for this continued
interest. The scientific community has dealt with the control of flying machines by mainly developing different strategies in relation to different classes of aerial vehicles – as exemplified by airliners and helicopters – and no unified approach has been developed so far. My research attempt contributes towards the development of such a unified approach by taking into account nonlinear aerodynamic effects in the control design.
The control framework assumes that the aerodynamic effects of rotational and unsteady motions are negligible, and that the means of actuation for an aerial vehicle consist of a body-fixed thrust force for translational motion and a control torque  for attitude monitoring. My research focuses on the guidance loop of the control problem. One of the main objectives has been to determine how to regulate the  thrust intensity and the vehicle orientation to compensate for the orientation-dependent external forces.
The following videos show the performances of the control approaches developed during my PhD. The objective was to stabilize the aircraft, which is subjected to aerodynamic forces that depend on the vehicle's orientation, about reference motions, specified by either a reference velocity or position. These simulations were performed with Matlab-Simulink. See below some of my results.


Wheeled Robotics 

Providing autonomous platforms that may improve the quality of our lives is an active research domain in robotics. Among these platforms, we studied the problem of a mobile robot that must follow a user. This robotic application can  be used for several tasks such as  shopping carts, butlers that may help for carrying heavy objects, or walking-aid systems. For such mobile platforms to work properly, two basic issues must be dealt with. The first one concerns the detection of the user and the estimation of its position with respect to the robot. The second issue is the design of feedback control laws that maintain a desired relative position between the robot and the user. I actively contributed to providing new solutions to these two issues. For instance, it is well known that position controllers typically used to stabilize the robot with respect to the user work well when the user is located in front of the robot and moves forward. In particular, the so-called jack-knife effect is problematic if the user starts moving backward. I proposed a solution that allows us to stabilize the robot w.r.t. the person with the latter located sideways – i.e. along the wheels’ axis – and also ensures jack-knife effect avoidance. It can be implemented with conventional sensor suite since the control law is position-based, i.e. the relative orientation of the person w.r.t. the robot is not needed to compute the control law. 

Nucleae Fusion

Accurate chamber pre-fills and plasma density control are primary concerns when dealing with tokamak machines, and I contributed to developing a control strategy for these two concerns. Plasma density evolutions are governed by a set of partial differential equations involving machine’s geometries, electromagnetic fields, atomic physics, and initial conditions of the entire system. This set of equations cannot in general be written in the state-space representation, and this renders almost inapplicable most of the classical  control methods. We proposed to take a different route by considering a linear, autonomous, model for the so-called averaged line plasma density. Then,  the control designed was performed on this model by applying a nonlinear PID with a classical anti-wind up. The chamber pre-fill control is achieved analogously. The whole system has been implemented using the real-rime framework MARTe, coded in C++.


Selected Publications


  1. L. Natale, C. Bartolozzi, D. Pucci, A. Wykowska, G. Metta "iCub: the not yet finished story of building a robot child", in press, Science Robotics
  2. D. Pucci, T. Hamel, P. Morin, and C. Samson. “Nonlinear Feedback Control of Axisymmetric Aerial Vehicles”. In: Automatica 53 (2015), pp. 72–78.
  3. D. Pucci, F. Romano, and F. Nori. “Collocated Adaptive Control of Underactuated Mechanical Systems”. In: IEEE Transactions on Robotics 31 (6 2015), pp. 1–10.
  4. D. Pucci, S. Traversaro, and F. Nori. “Momentum Control of an Underactuated Flying Humanoid Robot”. In: IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters 3.1 (2018), pp. 195–202. 
  5. F. Nori, S. Traversaro, J. Eljaik, F. Romano, A. Del Prete, and D. Pucci. “iCub Whole-body Control through Force Regulation on Rigid Noncoplanar Contacts”. In: Frontiers in Robotics and AI (2015).



2017 Finalist, Kuka innovation award, Co-aware team.

2015 Most interesting research topics, Premio Sapio per la ricerca e l’innovazine, Total submissions: 141, selected for publication on "DA, per la ricerca e l’innovazione". Title: "Tu, robot.". Online at, p. 38.

2010 Vinci Program Grant, travel support grant, from “Université Franco Italienne”.

2009 Academic Excellence, from “Sapienza” University of Rome.

2004 Research project award, at the Triennial Electronics Exhibit, Technical Industrial State Institute “G. Vallauri”, Velletri (Italy).

1998 Tullio Fazi Prize, distinguished student award, from Rotary International 2080.



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I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.