About Me

I am a Robotics Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University advised by Ji Zhang and Howie Choset.

My research is centered around autonomous navigation for mobile robots. I developed algorithms for autonomous robotic exploration, which enabled a team of robots to explore kilometer-scale underground environments in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, winning the “Most Sectors Explored Award”. This work also won Best Paper Award and Best System Paper Award of RSS 2021, and the subsequent work is published on Science Robotics.

Curriculum Vitae (CV)


  • Jan 2024: Started my internship at Boston Dynamics AI Institute working on mobile manipulation.
  • Jul 2023: Paper on autonomous exploration published on Science Robotics.
  • Oct 2022: Paper on route planning won the Best Student Paper Award of IROS 2022.
  • Sep 2021: Our multi-robot exploration algorithm led to winning the Most Sectors Explored Award in the SubT Final Circuit.
  • Sep 2021: Awarded the CMU Presidential Fellowship.
  • Jul 2021: Paper on autonomous exploration won the Best Paper Award and Best Systems Paper Award of Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) 2021. The first time that one paper won both awards in the history of RSS!
  • Jan 2020: Paper on coverage path planning accepted to ICRA 2020.
  • Jan 2019: Paper on crowd navigation accepted to ICRA 2019.

Selected Research Projects

TARE: A Hierarchical Framework for Efficiently ExploringComplex 3D Environments

Chao Cao, Hongbiao Zhu, Howie Choset, Ji Zhang
Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS), 2021
website | pdf

Exploring the Most Sectors at the DARPA Subterranean Challenge Finals

Chao Cao, Lucas Nogueira, Hongbiao Zhu, …, Sebastian Scherer
Field Robotics, 2023

Hierarchical Coverage Path Planning in Complex 3D Environments

Chao Cao, Ji Zhang, Matt Travers, Howie Choset
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2020