/Slope Descent using Plowing to Minimize Slip for Planetary Rovers

Slope Descent using Plowing to Minimize Slip for Planetary Rovers

Daniel Loret de Mola Lemus, David Kohanbash, Scott Jared Moreland and David Wettergreen
Conference Paper, Journal of Field Robotics, Vol. 31, No. 5, pp. 803-819, April, 2014

Download Publication (PDF)

Copyright notice: This material is presented to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by authors or by other copyright holders. All persons copying this information are expected to adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author’s copyright. These works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.


Steep slopes of unconsolidated material at planetary destinations of recent interest, such as craters and skylights, defy descent by rovers due to uncontrolled slip. This work proposes a novel method based on braking by plowing to arrest slip during descent maneuvers on planetary terrains. The method covers two fundamental maneuvers: direct descent and point-turning. For direct descent, an automatic control system estimates slip through visual odometry and actuates a plow accordingly. For point-turning, the plow is engaged as a point of rotation. Experimental results showed that the slip control system for direct descent kept slip within ±5% for slopes as steep as 31° and for different commanded driving speeds. In the point-turning tests, downhill displacement was less than 0.08 m on inclinations up to 30°. Thus, a plowing policy was developed that allows precise descent on extreme slopes by minimizing slip. As a result, this work expands current rover mobility and control capabilities.

BibTeX Reference
author = {Daniel Loret de Mola Lemus and David Kohanbash and Scott Jared Moreland and David Wettergreen},
title = {Slope Descent using Plowing to Minimize Slip for Planetary Rovers},
booktitle = {Journal of Field Robotics},
year = {2014},
month = {April},
volume = {31},
pages = {803-819},
keywords = {Slope, Descent, Plowing, Slip, icebreaker, planetary, lunar, crater},