We are working on autonomous mobile robots for future missions on other planets and moons. As terrestrial application, we are aiming to support search and rescue missions. Both applications have very much in common, as the systems have to operate in an unknown, unstructured and rough environment. For both applications, a high level of autonomy is desirable.

Planetary Exploration

For scientific exploration of the Moon, Mars or other planetary bodies, it becomes more and more important to have mobile systems that can operate in difficult terrain and cover large distances. We are looking at different locomotion concepts, e.g. crawling versus driving. A direct teleoperation of the system is very difficult due to long communication time latencies. While the round trip communication time to the Moon is almost 3 s, it is already between 8-44 minutes to Mars, which is our nearest neighboring planet. Therefore we are working on autonomous navigation, which is computed on board the system for avoiding the communication latency.


 

Search and Rescue (SAR)

In search and rescue applications, there is typically an unknown, rough environment (e.g. due to a catastrophic event like an earth quake), which might be dangerous for humans (e.g. partly collapsed buildings). In these situations, quickly gathering information like images, maps or even 3D models would be very valuable for coordinating the work of the rescue personnel. As in planetary exploration, we are looking at mobile systems with different locomotion principles, like crawling, driving and flying. Directly remote controlling mobile systems is often possible, but difficult if the operator has no line of sight to the system. Furthermore, it requires skilled personnel, which might not be available. Therefore, we are working on autonomous navigation, which only requires high level control from the rescue personnel. Ideally, an operator would just define an area and multiple systems would spread out to quickly gather and register all information about the area. Thus, we are focusing on the exploration aspect of the application.

 

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