Exploration: New Method Allows Multi-Robot Teams to Explore Planets Autonomously and Safely

Glasgow, Scotland – Roboticists face ongoing challenges in developing systems that can autonomously operate in complex environments. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Glasgow introduces a novel methodology for teams of multiple rovers to explore other planets independently and reliably.

Published in a paper on arXiv, the research details how the new method utilizes data from various sources such as imaging data, maps, and sensor information to plan efficient routes for different robots in a team. This approach aims to enhance the scientific capabilities of planetary exploration missions by employing multiple rovers instead of a single one.

Sarah Swinton, the lead author of the study, highlights the importance of autonomy in planetary exploration due to communication delays between Earth and Mars. By utilizing a team of rovers, the need for autonomous operations becomes even more critical in coordinating their behaviors efficiently.

The study’s main focus was on addressing the challenge of multi-robot autonomous planetary exploration missions. The team developed a multi-rover mission planner that allows small robots designed for space exploration to explore the Martian surface autonomously, safely, and efficiently.

The methodology proposed involves two key stages: map generation and mission planning. By creating a map of the Martian environment using data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the planner can identify safe terrain for rovers to traverse. Additionally, a probability distribution map helps pinpoint locations of scientific interest for the rovers to explore.

One notable advantage of the multi-rover mission planner is its ability to provide a coordinated set of safe paths for each member of the rover team. This approach enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of exploring the Martian surface by increasing the likelihood of discovering points of interest.

Overall, the research conducted by the University of Glasgow’s team presents a significant step forward in the field of autonomous planetary exploration using multi-robot teams. By integrating data-driven methodologies and innovative planning strategies, the study contributes valuable insights to the future of robotic exploration missions on other planets.