October 04, 2011

Robots poised to aid exploration endeavors

Posted: Oct 04, 2011 | 4 min 13 sec

Robots are becoming an essential and versatile tool for exploration under the sea, from the air and on other planets.

Arizona State University roboticist Sri Saripalli works on ways to advance technologies that will enable future robots to perform more complex tasks to aid astronauts and other explorers – especially in environments too harsh or dangerous for humans to venture.

In this video Saripalli describes a rover named RAVEN (Robotic Assist Vehicle for Extraterrestrial Navigation) developed by a group of ASU students as part of their senior-year “capstone” research and development project.

RAVEN took first place in the 2010 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) – one of the premier astronautic design competitions for university-level engineering students – co-sponsored by the National Institute of Aerospace and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The ASU students won over teams from 12 other major universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, the University of Michigan and Rutgers University.

RAVEN is the type of technology engineers are developing to provide astronaut-scientists with robotic field assistants that could perform such tasks as scouting terrain and examining the geology of other planets.

The three-wheel, 330-pound rover can traverse 20-degree slopes and travel at speeds up to 3 feet per second. It has the ability to carry experimental gear, samples of materials, and tools.

The big challenge in the field, Saripalli explains, is to develop robots that could go beyond performing only simple tasks that they must be programmed to do. The goal is to get them to interact with astronauts and others on a basic level of intelligence.

That will require some complex advances in defining and developing “intelligent” technologies and devising a form of language that would enable humans and robots to communicate clearly and reliably.

Saripalli is an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. SESE is also a collaborative partner of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Video by Keith Jennings. Video editing by Dylan Abrams.

Media contacts:
Joe Kullman, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, 480-965-8122
Nicole Cassis, School Of Earth & Space Exploration, 602-710-7169

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