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This winter semester 2018/2019 a special seminar “Construction of mobile robots” was offered by Prof. Gerald Steinbauer from the institute of software technology at the Graz University of Technology in cooperation with the Austrian Space Forum.
The goal was to build and program a mobile robot (TUG rover) for rough terrain and to perform related tasks for the robotic exploration of Mars. If you followed our AMADEE-18 Mars simulation you probably know that Prof. Steinbauer was the Principal Investigator of Husky rover, an autonomous rover who was tested during the Mars simulation in Oman.
So, the experience with the Husky rover led to the idea to build a TUG rover. Designing a robot for Mars is quite a challenging task of its own, therefore the NASA JPL open source rover was chosen as design model for the hardware. JPL has a great work record in building successful rovers for Mars, as the Mars Exploration Rovers “Spirit” & “Opportunity” and also “Curiosity” were constructed by the JPL teams. The JPL Open Source Rover is designed after the 6-wheel Curiosity rover, but simplified so that students can built it with off-the-shelf components for a reasonable price.
During the seminar the students had to work in teams, follow the instructions to build the rover, but also to add autonomy with adding sensors, navigation and exploration capabilities etc.
On 30th January 2019 was the final presentation where the students successfully demonstrated that the rover can perform tasks required for Mars exploration on a Mars testing yard. The original JPL Rover design was strongly upgraded. So has the camera mast a swiveling camera head, the camera is machine vision ready and has an internal navigation systems. It was also prepared for autonomous navigation. Moreover, all recommended components were adapted to in Europe available components and adapted to the metric system.
With this first milestone, OeWF members (Ralf Lehner, Laura Adriana) will continue to work on the further development (software and hardware) of this rover and its use in field tests.
This article is available in: German
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