Self-driving rovers tested in Mars-like Morocco

20 2018

Self-driving rovers tested in Mars-like Morocco

View 3.8K

word 615 read time 3 minutes, 4 Seconds

Robots invaded the Sahara Desert for Europe’s largest rover field test, taking place in a Mars-like part of Morocco. For two weeks three rovers and more than 40 engineers tested automated navigation systems at up to five different sites.

This marked the end of the first phase of the strategic research cluster on space robotics technologies, a scheme funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.

The cluster is coordinated by the PERASPERA Ad Astra (Latin for ‘to the stars through hardships’) project, which is a partnership of Italy’s ASI space agency, France’s CNES space agency, the DLR German Aerospace Center, Spain’s CDTI technology agency and the UK Space Agency, UKSA, coordinated by ESA.

The venue for the field test was a site served by the Ibn Battuta Centre, near Erfoud on the northern edge of the Sahara Desert. The wind-blown desert environment was selected by the EU’s Europlanet Research Infrastructure as a good match for Mars, and many others agree: the teams ended up sharing the location with a Hollywood feature film crew and Chinese documentary makers.

"What this kind of field test gives you is the proof of the pudding that your design is working well, even in some of the most challenging environments we can imagine," explains Gianfranco Visentin, head of ESA’s Automation and Robotics section.

"Lab testing of the hardware we design doesn’t take account of the variability nature brings, from the light of the sky to the shape of the landscape, the texture and colours of the sand and rock. Operating outdoors in this way proves that our systems work in much more complex and elaborate settings than can ever be simulated.

"To give an example during this field test, the very smoothness and homogeneity of some of the big sand dunes proved difficult for computer vision algorithms to navigate, because they are based on identifying features based on difference, so they started to behave in unexpected ways we haven’t seen before.

"Our excellent results also included some good successes: the SherpaTT rover managed a 1.3-km journey on an entirely autonomous basis, while its autonomous science element triggered a scientific acquisition on its own, unprompted: it spotted some strange shaped stones then asked the main planner to move into a better position to take more images.

"This is important for the future, when there will be many more rovers going to Mars and they’ll be moving hundreds of metres per day. There won’t be schools of analysts to scrutinise every image – intelligent rover systems will be needed to detect what is interesting and send it back to Earth."

As an essential contribution before testing began, ESA flew a drone to map the location, producing digital elevation models down to a resolution of 4 cm. This ‘ground truthing’ was needed to compare rover data with observed reality.

The combination of ESA’s map and the data collected by the different rovers constitutes the largest analogue test dataset ever made and it will be used to validate algorithms for ESA’s own activities.

The field test included participants from Germany’s DFKI Robotics Innovation Centre, DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, Space Application Services in Belgium, Magellium and the Laboratory for Analysis and Architecture of Systems, LAAS, in France, GMV in Spain, Kings College London and Airbus in the UK.

PERASPERA is set to move to a new phase, building on the results demonstrated in the field test, culminating in a space mission to demonstrate orbital robotics around 2023.

Source by esaint

LSNN is an independent editor which relies on reader support. We disclose the reality of the facts, after careful observations of the contents rigorously taken from direct sources, we work in the direction of freedom of expression and for human rights , in an oppressed society that struggles more and more in differentiating. Collecting contributions allows us to continue giving reliable information that takes many hours of work. LSNN is in continuous development and offers its own platform, to give space to authors, who fully exploit its potential. Your help is also needed now more than ever!

In a world, where disinformation is the main strategy, adopted to be able to act sometimes to the detriment of human rights by increasingly reducing freedom of expression , You can make a difference by helping us to keep disclosure alive. This project was born in June 1999 and has become a real mission, which we carry out with dedication and always independently "this is a fact: we have never made use of funds or contributions of any kind, we have always self-financed every single operation and dissemination project ". Give your hard-earned cash to sites or channels that change flags every time the wind blows , LSNN is proof that you don't change flags you were born for! We have seen the birth of realities that die after a few months at most after two years. Those who continue in the nurturing reality of which there is no history, in some way contribute in taking more and more freedom of expression from people who, like You , have decided and want to live in a more ethical world, in which existing is not a right to be conquered, L or it is because you already exist and were born with these rights! The ability to distinguish and decide intelligently is a fact, which allows us to continue . An important fact is the time that «LSNN takes» and it is remarkable! Countless hours in source research and control, development, security, public relations, is the foundation of our basic and day-to-day tasks. We do not schedule releases and publications, everything happens spontaneously and at all hours of the day or night, in the instant in which the single author or whoever writes or curates the contents makes them public. LSNN has made this popular project pure love, in the direction of the right of expression and always on the side of human rights. Thanks, contribute now click here this is the wallet to contribute

Similar Articles / Self-dri...e Morocco