Short Bio

Kanna’s primary interests are in building complex systems in software for decision-making for real world environments including the harsh confines of deep space and the deep ocean. His career has spanned academia, government, private industry and the non-profit world all in the United States and mostly in California. His background is in Autonomous Systems, in particular in Automated Planning and Execution and agent architectures. His work lies at the intersection of AI, Robotics and Oceanography. He spent more than 10 years at NASA Ames Research Center where his software flew on two space missions, the 1999 New Millennium Deep Space One Remote Agent Experiment (RAX) and the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers mission (MER). His early work involved scheduling maintenance routing for A to D checks of all aircraft, at American Airlines using an internally built scheduling engine (MOCAA), which continues to being used 24X7 at the airline. 

He was a principal of the NASA Deep Space One Remote Agent which designed, built, tested and operated the first AI-based closed-loop controller in space, 65 Million miles from Earth. His contribution was in the design and implementation of the embedded  planning/scheduling system. Subsequently he was the Principal Investigator of the MAPGEN control-system, the longest running AI-based system to date and in a mission-critical environment, which commanded the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on the surface of the red planet. He is the (co)recipient of the 1999 NASA Software of the Year Award, the 2002 NASA Public Service medal for RAX and other contributions to the agency and the 2004 NASA Exceptional Service medal for MER, among other honors.

In 2005 he moved to the non-profit, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)  in California as the Principal Researcher for Autonomy and has since focused exclusively on developing and fielding autonomous system technologies and methods which can enable ocean scientists to study our rapidly changing environment. In this context he has been working closely with technologists, physical and biological oceanographers with a focus on embedded planning and control, statistical Machine Learning, spatial statistics and Sampling Theory. With colleagues in the US and Europe, he is now focused on integrating oceanographic observations across space and time with Small Satellites, aerial, surface and underwater vehicles looking at a patch of the ocean co-temporally. He spent four years as International Chair Adjunct Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim supervising PhD students, junior faculty, overseeing projects and writing grants for ocean facing applications. 

Kanna continues to hold a courtesy appointment as Visiting Professor at the University of Porto, Portugal’s Underwater Systems and Technology Laboratory and advising Phd students and post-doctoral scholars in Norway and Portugal. 



José Pinto, Maria Costa, Keila Lima, Paulo Dias, João Pereira, Manuel Ribeiro, Renato Campos, Zara Mirmalek, Renato Mendes, Francisco López-Castejón, Javier Gilabert, Maria Tomasino, Catarina Magalhães, Jorge Estrela da Silva, Paulo Relvas, Trent Lukaczyk, Kay Skarpnes, Martin Ludvigsen, Alex Chekalyuk, Kanna Rajan. 2020 , "To boldly dive where no one has gone before:Experiments in coordinated robotic ocean exploration", Intnl. Symp. on Experimental Robotics (ISER)


Aya Saad, Annette Stahl, Andreas Våge, Emlyn J.Davies, Tor Nordam, Nicole Aberle, Martin Ludvigsen, Geir Johnsen, João Borges de Sousa, Kanna Rajan. 2020 , "Advancing Ocean Observation with an AI-Driven Mobile Robotic Explorer", Oceanography,  VL - 33,  

Trygve Olav Fossum, Cédric Travelletti, Jo Eidsvik, David Ginsbourger, Kanna Rajan. 2020 , "Learning excursion sets of vector-valued Gaussian random fields for autonomous ocean sampling", arXiv preprint arXiv:2007.03722 (2020).


Trygve Olav Fossum, John Ryan, Tapan Mukerji, Jo Eidsvik, Thom Maughan, Martin Ludvigsen, Kanna Rajan. 2019 , "Compact models for adaptive sampling in marine robotics", The International Journal of Robotics Research. 2020;39(1):127-142. doi:10.1177/0278364919884141

Trygve Olav Fossum, John Ryan, Tapan Mukerji, Jo Eidsvik, Thom Maughan, Martin Ludvigsen, Kanna Rajan. 2019 , "Compact models for adaptive sampling in marine robotics", The International Journal of Robotics Research. 2020;39(1):127-142

Glaucia M.Fragoso, Emlyn J.Davies, Ingrid Ellingsen, Matilde S.Chauton, Trygve Olav Fossum, Martin Ludvigsen, Kristine B. Steinhovden, Kanna Rajan, Geir Johnsen. 2019 , "Physical controls on phytoplankton size structure, photophysiology and suspended particles in a Norwegian biological hotspot", Progress in Oceanography, Volume 175, Pages 284-299

Trygve Olav Fossum, Glaucia M.Fragoso, Emlyn J.Davies, Jenny Ullgren, Renato Mendes, Geir Johnsen, Ingrid Ellingsen, Jo Eidsvik, Martin Ludvigsen, Kanna Rajan. 2019 , "Toward adaptive robotic sampling of phytoplankton in the coastal ocean", Science Robotics, 13 Feb 2019


Maria Costa, José Pinto, Paulo Dias, João Pereira, Keila Lima, Manuel Ribeiro, João Borges de Sousa, Trent Lukaczyk, Renato Mendes, Maria Tomasino, Catarina Magalhães, Igor Belkin, Francisco López-Castejón, Javier Gilabert, Kay Skarpnes, Martin Ludvigsen, Kanna Rajan, Zara Mirmalek, Alex Chekalyuk. 2018 , "Field Report: Exploring Fronts with Multiple Robots", 2018 IEEE/OES Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Workshop (AUV), Porto, Portugal, pp. 1-7

António Sérgio Ferreira, Maria Costa, Frédéric Py, José Pinto, Mónica Silva, Alex Nimmo-Smith, Tor Arne Johansen, João Borges de Sousa, Kanna Rajan. 2018 , "Advancing multi-vehicle deployments in oceanographic field experiments", Advancing multi-vehicle deployments in oceanographic field experiments. Auton Robot 43, 1555–1574

Trygve Olav Fossum, Jo Eidsvik, Ingrid Ellingsen, Morten Alver, Glaucia M.Fragoso, Geir Johnsen, Renato Mendes, Martin Ludvigsen, Kanna Rajan. 2018 , "Information-driven robotic sampling in the coastal ocean", Information‐driven robotic sampling in the coastal ocean. J Field Robotics. 2018; 35: 1101– 1121.


Kanna Rajan, Alessandro Saffiotti. 2017 , "Towards a science of integrated AI and Robotics", Artificial Intelligence, Volume 247, Pages 1-9, ISSN 0004-3702


João Borges de Sousa, João Pereira, José Pinto, Paulo Claro Lourenço, João Madaleno Galocha, Jorge Fontes, Mónica Silva, Kanna Rajan, Tor Arne Johansen, João Alves, Andrea Munafò, Konstantinos Pelekanakis, Roberto Petroccia, Marina Carreiro Silva, Michael Incze. 2016 , "Rapid Environmental Picture Atlantic exercise 2015 : a field report", OCEANS 2016 MTS/IEEE Monterey, Monterey, CA, 2016, pp. 1-6

André Guerra, Frederico Francisco, Jaime Villate, Fernando Agelet, Orfeu Bertolami, Kanna Rajan. 2016 , "On small satellites for oceanography: A survey", Acta Astronautica, Volume 127, Pages 404-423, ISSN 0094-5765,

Frédéric Py, José Pinto, M.A. Silva, Tor Arne Johansen, João Borges de Sousa, Kanna Rajan. 2016 , "EUROPtus: A Mixed-initiative Controller for Multi-Vehicle Oceanographic Field Experiments",  EUROPtus: A Mixed-initiative Controller for Multi-Vehicle Oceanographic Field Experiments. 10.13140/RG.2.2.24176.25603.

Lara Sousa, Francisco López-Castejón, Javier Gilabert, Paulo Relvas, Ana Couto, Nuno Queiroz, Renato Caldas, Paulo Dias, Hugo Dias, Margarida Faria, Filipe Ferreira, António Sérgio Ferreira, João Fortuna, Ricardo Gomes, Bruno Loureiro, Ricardo Martins, Luis Madureira, Jorge Neiva, Marina Oliveira, João Pereira, José Pinto, Frédéric Py, Hugo Queirós, Daniel Silva, P.B. Sujit, Artur Zolich, Tor Arne Johansen, João Borges de Sousa, Kanna Rajan. 2016 , "Integrated Monitoring of Mola mola Behaviour in Space and Time", Integrated Monitoring of Mola mola Behaviour in Space and Time. PLOS ONE 11(8): e0160404.


Lukáš Chrpa, José Pinto, Manuel Ribeiro, Frédéric Py, João Borges de Sousa, Kanna Rajan. 2015 , "On mixed-initiative planning and control for Autonomous underwater vehicles", 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Hamburg, pp. 1685-1690

José Pinto, Paulo Dias, João Pereira, Renato Caldas, Tiago Rodrigues, João Borges de Sousa, Frédéric Py, Kanna Rajan. 2015 , "Mixed-Initiative Interaction for Tracking of Ocean Sunfish", IFAC-PapersOnLine, Volume 48, Issue 2,Pages 94-99


Margarida Faria, José Pinto, Frédéric Py, João Fortuna, Hugo Dias, Ricardo Martins, Frederik Leira, Tor Arne Johansen, João Borges de Sousa, Kanna Rajan. 2014 , "Coordinating UAVs and AUVs for oceanographic field experiments: Challenges and lessons learned", IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Hong Kong, 2014, pp. 6606-6611


José Pinto, Margarida Faria, João Fortuna, Ricardo Martins, João Borges de Sousa, Nuno Queiroz, Frédéric Py, Kanna Rajan. 2013 , "Chasing Fish: Tracking and control in a autonomous multi-vehicle real-world experiment", OCEANS - San Diego, San Diego, CA, 2013, pp. 1-6


Philip McGuillivary, João Borges de Sousa, Ricardo Martins, Kanna Rajan, F. Leroy. 2012 , "Integrating autonomous underwater vessels, surface vessels and aircraft as persistent surveillance components of ocean observing studies", 2012 IEEE/OES Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV), Southampton, pp. 1-5

Julián González, Ivan Masmitjà, Spartacus Gomáriza, Erik Molino, Joaquin del Río, Antoni Mànuel, J. Busquets, A. Guerrero, Francisco López-Castejón, M. Carreras, D. Ribas, A. Carrera, C. Candela, P. Ridao, João Borges de Sousa, Pedro Calado, José Pinto, Alexandre Sousa, Ricardo Martins, D. Borrajo, A. Olaya, B. Garau, I. González, S. Torres, Kanna Rajan, M. McCann, Javier Gilabert. 2012 , "AUV Based Multi-vehicle Collaboration: Salinity Studies in Mar Menor Coastal Lagoon", IFAC Proceedings Volumes, Volume 45, Issue 5, 2012, Pages 287-292,

José Pinto, João Borges de Sousa, Frédéric Py, Kanna Rajan. 2012 , "Experiments with Deliberative Planning on Autonomous Underwater Vehicles", IROS 2012 Workshop on Robotics for Environmental Monitoring, Vilamoura, Portugal.