Dr Daniel Zhou Hao

Lecturer in AI and Robotics

Dr Daniel Zhou Hao

School/Department: Computing and Mathematical Sciences, School of


Address: Ken Edwards Building (Mon - Tue, Thu - Fri) Space Park Leicester (Wed)


Lab Website:

DriverLeics Team Website:


Dr. Hao is a lecturer (assistant professor) in AI and Robotics at CMS. He is the founder of the Dynamics and Neural Intelligence (DANi) Lab and the Team Lead of the DriverLeics research-inspired education group in AI-powered robotics and autonomous systems.

Dr. Hao is the Leicester's PI in the UK Space Agency (UKSA) funded PLATOR project. He is also the Robotics Lead for the ESA/NASA Mars Sample Return DWI Project (ESA Prog. ref: E/019A-02R - MSR SRP E3P2), affiliated with Space Park Leicester. Dr. Hao is the Co-I of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Transformation of Metals Industry (2024), working with School of Engineering.

Dr. Hao's expertise encompasses Spacecraft AOCS/GNC, Robotics, and AI. His current research interests include autonomous GNC supporting in-orbit servicing and manufacturing, Large language and vision models driven robotics, Reinforcement Learning for Legged Space Robots, AI-driven Robotic Manipulation, and AI for Space Sciences. 

Before joining Leicester, Dr. Hao worked at the Centre for Vision, Speech, and Signal Processing (CVSSP)- funded by the University of Surrey, and at the Surrey Space Centre- funded by EPSRC. He was awarded a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, specialising in Very Low Earth Orbits Thermospherical Spacecraft Attitude Control, from the University of Manchester in 2018. Additionally, he holds double-MSc in both Space Sciences and Astronautical Engineering.

Dr. Hao is passionate about discussing science to inspire the general public and younger generations to be fascinated by AI and Space. He has lead teams to participate in various outreach events, including the BrightSparks STEM Fair 2023, Cheltenham Science Festival 2019, and BlueDot Science Festival 2016. For interview, podcast, or filming requests, please contact Dr. Hao directly for more details.

In his personal life, Dr. Hao enjoys cooking, hiking, Pokemon, and games developed by Hidetaka Miyazaki. He is always happy to make new friends through sharing nice food, gaming, hiking, and collaborating on exciting new research ideas.

Dr. Hao is actively seeking talented, self-motivated students to join the team. Happy to discuss funding options.


Research Funding

Co-I, Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Transformation of Metals Industry (£18m), EPSRC, 03.2024
PI(Leicester), UK Space Agency's PLATOR Project (~£400k)UK Space Agency, UKSA NSTP, 04.2023
Robotics Lead, ESA/NASA Mars Sample Return DWI Project (~£5m), European Space Agency ITT, 11.2023

Industry Funding

PI, Next Generation Ground Robotic Testbed for Rendezvous and Proximity Operations, Consultancy - Lúnasaspace, 07.2024

Research Interests

Future Space Missions Powered by AI and Robotics

Reinforcement and Imitation Learnings for Robotic Locomotions

Data Sciences for Future Digital Manufacturing

Embodied Intelligence in Robotics

Journal Editorial

I am currently a guest editor for Artificial Intelligence for IoT Systems:



Ciccarelli, E., Baresi, N., Bernardini N., Saridede, E., Tisaev, M., Hao D.H., Fabris, A.L., and Underwood, C. (2024) 'Trajectory Design and Navigation Analysis of a PLAsma TOrch Rocket Propelled Space Tug', International Symposium on Space Flight Dynamics (ISSFD), ESOC Darmstadt
Montanaro, U., Martini, S., Hao, Z., Gao, Y., Sorniotti, A. (2023) ‘Multi-input enhanced model reference adaptive control strategies and their application to space robotic manipulators’, International Journal of Robust and Nonlinear Control, doi:10.1002/rnc.6639
Hao, Z., Shyam, A, Rathinam, A., and Gao, Y. (2021) ‘Intelligent spacecraft GNC architecture with the state-of-the-art AI components for on-orbit manipulation’, Frontier in Robotics and AI. doi: 10.3389/frobt.2021.639327
Mavrakis, N., Hao, Z., and Gao, Y. (2021) ‘On-Orbit Robotic Grasping of a Spent Rocket Stage: Grasp Stability Analysis and Experimental Results’, Frontier in Robotics and AI. doi: 10.3389/frobt.2021.652681
Shyam, A., Hao Z., Montanaro U., Dixit S., Rathinam A, Gao, Y., Neumann, G., and Fallah S. (2021) ‘Autonomous Robots for Space: Trajectory Learning and Adaptation Using Imitation’, Frontier in Robotics and AI. doi:10.3389/frobt.2021.638849
Hao, Z., Rathinam, A., Shyam, A., and Gao, Y. (2020) ‘Intelligent GNC Architectures and Designs for Orbital Robotic Applications’, Poster for the Opportunities and Challenges in Space Robotics Workshop, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation - ICRA 2020, Online. doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.15175.73124
Shyam, A., Rathinam, A., Hao, Z. (2020) ‘Trajectory Tracking and Control of Multiple Robot Arms on a Free-Floating Spacecraft for Debris Removal’, in 3rd UKRAS20 Conference & 1st virtual UK-RAS Conference, 17th April 2020, Online.
Hao, Z., Mavrakis, N., Proenca, P., Gillham Darnley, R., Fallah, S., Sweeting, M. and Gao, Y. (2019) ‘Ground-Based HighDOF AI And Robotics Demonstrator For In-Orbit Space Optical Telescope Assembly’, in 70th International Astronautical Congress, 2019-10-21-2019-10-25, Washington, D.C., United States.
Hao, Z. and Roberts, P. C. E. (2017) ‘Active Aerodynamic Pitch Control for Earth Observation Missions in Very Low Earth Orbits’, in 31st International Symposium on Space Technology and Science (ISTS). Matsuyama, Japan.
Virgili-Llop, J., Roberts, P. C. E. and Hao, Z. (2017) ‘Using the attitude response of aerostable spacecraft to measure thermospheric wind’, CEAS Space Journal. doi: 10.1007/s12567-017-0153-9
Hao, Z. and Roberts, P. C. E. (2016) ‘Using Aerodynamic Torques To Aid Detumbling Into An Aerostable State’, in 67th International Astronautical Congress. Guadalajara, Mexico, p. IAC-16,C1,8,4,x35312.
Hao, Z., Xu, Q., Roberts, P. C. E., Hobbs, S., and Kingston, J. (2015) ‘System Design for CubeSat as A Secondary Payload For Deep-Space Mission – A Case Study For ESA Asteroid Impact Mission’, in 66th International Astronautical Congress, Jerusalem, Israel, IAC-15,B4,8,11,x31061.
Virgili-Llop, J., Roberts, P. C. E. and Hao, Z. (2014) ‘Aerodynamic Attitude and Orbit Control Capabilities of The ∆Dsat CubeSat’, in 37th Advances in the Astronautical Sciences. Breckenridge, Colorado.
Virgili-Llop, J., Roberts, P. C. E., Hao, Z., Tomas, L. R. and Beauplet, V. (2014) ‘Very Low Earth Orbit mission concepts for Earth Observation: Benefits and challenges’, in 12th Reinventing Space Conference. London, UK

Book Chapter

Rathinam, A., Hao, Z., and Gao, Y. (2020) for Chapter ‘Autonomous Spacecraft Navigation for Orbital Robotic Servicing Applications’ for ‘Space Robotics and Autonomous Systems: Technologies, Advances and Applications’, PBCE130, Publisher: the IET


PhD Supervision

Roin (Lijia) Deng (2023 - Now) Crowd Counting by Using Deep Learning Approaches 

J. Atmounia (2024 - Now) - Deep Reinforcement Learning (RL) for Space Legged Robots

Mingshuo Xu (Co-Supervision, 2023 - Now) - Insect Vision Inspired Rapid Target Identification and Tracking

ESA/NASA DWI Project Research Intern

Abdulqader A.M. Dhafer (2024 - Now)

MSc Supervision

Dr. Hao has supervised many MSc in AI related topics (Open to student-proposed projects. Please contact Dr. Hao for more information)

UG Supervision

Dr. Hao has supervised many undergraduate projects in AI and Robotics. Examples of these projects include:

  • High-Degree-of-Freedom (DoF) Kendo Practice Robot
  • Nvidia Jetson Controlled Autonomous Driving Vehicle
  • Reinforcement Learning for a 2-Legged Humanoid Walking



DriverLeics (

Dr. Hao is the team lead of the Research-Inspired Education group for autonomous systems and AI at CMS.

Computing Sciences Modules

[CO2103] - Semester 1 Software Architecture and System Development (Java, Spring Boot, Modern Software Technologies) 

[CO7099] Foundations of Cybersecurity (Encryption, Firewall, Security Protocols, Network Technology)

[CO3201/3202] Computer Science Project

Dr. Hao supervises a range of undergraduate research projects focusing on Artificial Intelligence for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence for Space Applications.

[CO7201] Master's Individual Project

Dr. Hao supervises a range of undergraduate research projects focusing on General Artificial Intelligence Applications and Software Engineering.

Guest Lecture

Dr. Hao is also a guest lecturer in Spacecraft Engineering at the University of Bath (2022). 



Press and media

BrightSparks 2024 STEM Fair

BrightSparks 2023 STEM Fair

UK Space Agency Funded PLATOR Project

Breakfast BBC East Midlands Today (Jun 29, 2023)

University of Leicester Podcast - AI for Space Applications


Citizen Recognition Scheme Award  05.2024

Nomination for Superstar Award for Best Lecturer 06.2024

University of Manchester PhD Scholarship 2016 - 2018


PhD in Aerospace Engineering (Funded by UoM), The University of Manchester, UK 2018
Engineering Programme in Robotics (4 ECTS Credits), Tohoku University, Japan 2015
MSc in Astronautical and Space Engineering (Erasums SpaceMaster), Cranfield University, UK 2014
MSc in Space Technology, Luleå University of Technology (Space Campus), Sweden and The Julius Maximilians University of Würzburg, Germany 2013
BSc in Aerospace Engineering, Monash University, Australia 2012

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