Hyper-Redundant Robotics - Bug-bots for Mars Exploration
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Hyper-Redundant Robotics - Bug-bots for Mars Exploration

April 30, 2001

Samuel Aguirre
Clinton Kennedy
Adam Majkowski
Nathan Schoeneberg
Christopher Strange
Ignacio Villarreal
Amanda Wilson
Tim Zoerner



Table of Contents
List of Figuresiii
Introduction2
Two-Track Design - Technical Approach4
Two-Track Design - Evaluation of Data / Analysis15
Two Legged Robot21
New Six Legged Test Bot26
Leg Footing28
Test Track29
Wind Driven Robot32
Batteries and antenna33
Detection Sensors and Data Transmission System38
Systems Circuitry42
Logic Circuitry47
Stall Avoidance System (SAS)49
Power Control50
Temperature Regulation50

Introduction

Mankind as a whole possesses an inherent natural curiosity with the world around us. One of the most challenging, and yet rewarding, endeavors of modern times is the exploration of space. For the past forty-five years, nations have spent enormous amounts of money and other resources in an effort to satisfy this curiosity. More recently, the exploration of Mars, in a hopeful effort to establish manned research stations on its surface within the next forty years, is a prevalent topic of discussion. Several Mars rovers and probes with project costs in excess of five hundred million dollars have been sent to relay more planetary data to scientists and engineers on Earth. Two problems are evident in this system of exploration: high cost per net unit of information gained, and susceptibility to total mission failure given certain minor systems malfunctions.

Last semester, the feasibility of Martian exploration by the deployment of numerous, highly-simplified micro-robots, dubbed bug-bots, was thoroughly investigated and subsequently affirmed. Minor prototyping efforts were also conducted concurrently with this research, and several different basic designs were created. Thus far, this semester of work has focused almost entirely on the design, prototyping, and testing of several bug-bot designs. Incorporation of the design constraints determined last semester, which accounted for conditions such as low temperatures, low-density atmosphere, lower solar insolation, and limited power availability, will be prominent in these prototypes. Structural analyses have been initiated on each design to assess the ability of each design to deal with stresses due to deployment impacts and thermal variances. The efficient integration of individual systems onboard the bug-bots, which will remain similar, regardless of the differing methods of locomotion utilized by each prototype, has been a secondary focus.

Prototype mechanical designs for the airborne design, a six-legged design, and the two-track design are nearly complete. Electronic components for these designs have been produced and are awaiting finalized mechanical parts to allow complete robot testing to begin. In addition, the construction of a simulated Martian surface model has begun, which will allow more accurate ascertaining of the performance of each robot in terrain more similar to that found on Mars. Specific accomplishments to this point will be detailed more thoroughly in the remainder of this document.

By greatly simplifying the duties of each probe or robot, the electronic and mechanical simplicity, as compared to rovers of past NASA missions, should be unsurpassed. Each robot will most likely be equipped with either one or two molecular sensors, tuned to a particular type of molecule. By deploying up to hundreds up robots carrying a particular type of sensor, the hyper-redundancy factor is introduced. To exemplify this, consider a situation consisting of five groups of one hundred robots, with each group searching for a single type of molecule. If thirty percent of the robots became damaged, malfunctioned, or were faulty, there would still be seventy robots of each type roaming the surface of Mars! Thus, the redundancy issue factors mainly into the statistical probability of large numbers of simple robots failing simultaneously. This probability is extremely low.

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