/Mapping Planetary Caves with an Autonomous, Heterogeneous Robot Team

Mapping Planetary Caves with an Autonomous, Heterogeneous Robot Team

Ammar Husain, Heather Jones, Balajee Kannan, Uland Wong, Tiago Pimentel, Sarah Tang, Shreyansh Daftry, Steven Huber and William (Red) L. Whittaker
Conference Paper, 2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference, March, 2013

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Caves on other planetary bodies offer sheltered habitat for future human explorers and numerous clues to a planet’s past for scientists. While recent orbital imagery provides exciting new details about cave entrances on the Moon and Mars, the interiors of these caves are still unknown and not observable from orbit. Multi-robot teams offer unique solutions for exploration and modeling subsurface voids during precursor missions. Robot teams that are diverse in terms of size, mobility, sensing, and capability can provide great advantages, but this diversity, coupled with inherently distinct low-level behavior architectures, makes coordination a challenge. This paper presents a framework that consists of an autonomous frontier and capability-based task generator, a distributed market-based strategy for coordinating and allocating tasks to the different team members, and a communication paradigm for seamless interaction between the different robots in the system. Robots have different sensors, (in the representative robot team used for testing: 2D mapping sensors, 3D modeling sensors, or no exteroceptive sensors), and varying levels of mobility. Tasks are generated to explore, model, and take science samples. Based on an individual robot’s capability and associated cost for executing a generated task, a robot is autonomously selected for task execution. The robots create coarse online maps and store collected data for high resolution offline modeling. The coordination approach has been field tested at a mock cave site with highly-unstructured natural terrain, as well as an outdoor patio area. Initial results are promising for applicability of the proposed multi-robot framework to exploration and modeling of planetary caves.

BibTeX Reference
author = {Ammar Husain and Heather Jones and Balajee Kannan and Uland Wong and Tiago Pimentel and Sarah Tang and Shreyansh Daftry and Steven Huber and William (Red) L. Whittaker},
title = {Mapping Planetary Caves with an Autonomous, Heterogeneous Robot Team},
booktitle = {2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference},
year = {2013},
month = {March},
publisher = {IEEE},