The ARCHES Space-Analogue Demonstration Mission: Towards Heterogeneous Teams of Autonomous Robots for Collaborative Scientific Sampling in Planetary Exploration

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Journal Article
IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, 2020, 5, (4), pp. 5315-5322
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© 2016 IEEE. Teams of mobile robots will play a crucial role in future missions to explore the surfaces of extraterrestrial bodies. Setting up infrastructure and taking scientific samples are expensive tasks when operating in distant, challenging, and unknown environments. In contrast to current single-robot space missions, future heterogeneous robotic teams will increase efficiency via enhanced autonomy and parallelization, improve robustness via functional redundancy, as well as benefit from complementary capabilities of the individual robots. In this letter, we present our heterogeneous robotic team, consisting of flying and driving robots that we plan to deploy on scientific sampling demonstration missions at a Moon-analogue site on Mt. Etna, Sicily, Italy in 2021 as part of the ARCHES project. We describe the robots' individual capabilities and their roles in two mission scenarios. We then present components and experiments on important tasks therein: automated task planning, high-level mission control, spectral rock analysis, radio-based localization, collaborative multi-robot 6D SLAM in Moon-analogue and Mars-like scenarios, and demonstrations of autonomous sample return.
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