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Molinaroli College of Engineering and Computing

  • Launching autonomous vehicles into the ocean

U.S. Marine Corps Vet and USC alum tackles new frontiers with Integer Technologies

Semper Fi means always faithful. For 10 years, Midlands native Tristan Kyzer faithfully served his nation as an enlisted man in the U.S. Marine Corps. After leaving the Corps, he used the G.I. Bill to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing.

 After graduating, Tristan left the state to Huntsville, Alabama for work, but was recruited back to Columbia for a mechanical engineering role at Columbia-based Integer Technologies. At Integer, he has been able to blend his desire to serve his nation with his passion for creating the next generation of technology for autonomous systems to strengthen the future of our military.

 “Being a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, providing the best technology to our country’s military hits home and is not an abstract concept for me,” Kyzer says. “It’s really exciting to continue serving the nation and build on my graduate work; designing perception systems for robotic and autonomous systems in my role as a mechanical engineer.”

Kyzer is the lead mechanical engineer on a program that is tasked with developing reliable perception systems for autonomous vehicles for every mile of the ocean. The project’s primary focus is on detecting and avoiding small, irregular objects in the extremely challenging nearshore maritime environment, also called the littoral zone.

Kyzer has a daunting task as typical computer vision technology does not translate easily to the maritime domain, which include some of the noisiest and most difficult environments for computer vision systems. For a human or machine to safely navigate in the littoral zone, it must have a very reliable understanding of the environment and obstacles in it, such as buoys, logs and a variety of ocean debris. 

Applying commercial-off-the-shelf algorithms to the problem has failed repeatedly, thus the USC-Integer team is pursuing a goal of developing new algorithms, software and hardware prototypes that will make maritime autonomy safe, reliable and affordable. Integer’s perception system is being tested on an amphibious landing craft (pictured). Working with Kyzer on the project is Integer’s machine learning engineer, Regan Willis, a computer science graduate also from USC. Kyzer also continues to work with Associate Professor Yi Wang, his mentor and master’s thesis advisor at USC.

 “I can’t thank the USC College of Engineering and Computer and Dr. Wang enough for the excellent guidance during my graduate work and for introducing me to Integer Technologies,” Kyzer says. “It’s an honor to work with such an innovative company right here in my hometown.”

Integer Technologies teams with some of the nation’s top research universities and colleges, most prominently the USC College of Engineering and Computing, in developing autonomous and maritime technologies,  The company is always looking for good computer scientists and engineers, especially veterans.

About Integer Technologies

Integer is a science and technology firm founded to support U.S. national security customers by equipping them with world-class technology. Integer provides subject matter expertise, research and development services, consultation, and software products for both manned and unmanned vessel optimization. 

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