Recently in the ROV Category

Early September will see the very first force-feedback-based teleoperation of a rover-based robotic arm system on Earth from the International Space Station, orbiting 400 km above our heads.

NASA Tests Under-Ice Rover

A school of sardines fluttered by as giant leafy kelp swayed back and forth at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on Monday, June 22.

A prototype Mars parachute is pulled from the sky with a rocket sled.

Eleven teams from across the country and around the globe are preparing to compete for $1.5 million during NASA's 2013 Sample Return Robot Challenge, June 5-7 at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Mass.

Liquid Robotics(R), an ocean data services provider and developer of the Wave Glider(R), announced it has been officially awarded the Guinness World Record for the longest journey of an unmanned autonomous surface vehicle. "Benjamin Franklin," the Wave Glider named in honor of one of the United States' founding fathers and the oceanographer who discovered and named the Gulf Stream Current, traveled farther than any other unmanned autonomous surface vehicle -- land or sea.

Fifty teams of undergraduate and graduate students from around the world will demonstrate their lunar excavator robots May 20 - 24 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Practice sessions for the fourth annual Lunabotics Mining Competition will take place May 20 - 21, followed by the official competition. Media representatives are invited to cover the event on Wednesday, May 22 from 12 - 4 p.m. EDT, at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

NASA's newest scientific rover is set for testing May 3 through June 8 in the highest part of Greenland. The robot known as GROVER, which stands for both Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, will roam the frigid landscape collecting measurements to help scientists better understand changes in the massive ice sheet. This autonomous, solar-powered robot carries a ground-penetrating radar to study how snow accumulates, adding layer upon layer to the ice sheet over time.

"NASA is considering the initiation of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Airspace Operations Challenge (hereinafter "Challenge") to be conducted under the Centennial Challenges Program administered through NASA Headquarters located in Washington, D.C. Through this Opportunity Notice (NOTICE) NASA seeks to select a Lead Allied Organization and additional Supporting Allied Organization(s) to work with NASA to conduct this Challenge. Overall coordination of the Lead and Supporting Allied Organizations will be done by a NASA Challenge manager. The date for Challenge competition is expected to be between August 30, 2013 and June 30, 2014 depending upon the availability of a test range and competitor registration date." More

A Robot That Explorers Moon Caves

"William 'Red' Whittaker often spends his Sundays lowering a robot into a recently blown up coal mine pit near his cattle ranch in Pennsylvania (see video). By 2015, he hopes that his robot, or something like it, will be rappelling down a much deeper hole, on the Moon. The hole was discovered three years ago when Japanese researchers published images from the satellite SELENE, but spacecraft orbiting the Moon have been unable to see into its shadowy recesses."

Using Space Internet to Control Robots

"ESA and NASA have tested a communications protocol that will allow astronauts to control robots from space stations orbiting planets or asteroids. The test marks the way for a trial-run with an astronaut on the International Space Station next week. Last week a Space Station user centre at the University of Boulder, USA sent a command to a NASA laptop on the International Space Station to start a script that controlled the Mocup robot at ESA's ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany. The robot was commanded to move forward and take pictures, which it performed as planned. Mocup is one of the robots in ESA's Meteron - Multi-purpose End-To-End Robotic Operations Network - initiative for future missions to the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies. Space exploration will most likely involve sending robotic explorers to test the waters on uncharted planets before sending humans to land." More

"NASA is accepting applications from teams of U.S. and international undergraduate and graduate students for the fourth annual Lunabotics Mining Competition. The event will be held at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida May 20-24, 2013. Participants in the competition will design and build a remote controlled or autonomous robot. During the competition, the teams' designs, known as lunabots, will go head-to-head to determine which machine can excavate and deposit the most simulated lunar dirt within 10 minutes. Registration is limited to the first 50 teams submitting applications." More

"Explore the innovation behind Samarai, Lockheed Martin's maple seed-inspired UAV. Fly it yourself with the LM Tomorrow® app available on the App Store:"

Keith's note: Picture a swarm of these things - sized to function on Mars - powered by the sun.

"This month, NASA engineer Eric Stackpole hiked to a spot in Trinity County, east of California's rough Bigfoot country. Nestled at the base of a hill of loose rock, peppered by red and purple wildflowers, is Hall City Cave. For part of the winter the cave is infested with large spiders, but is mostly flooded year-round. Locals whisper the cave's deep pools hold a cache of stolen gold, but Mr. Stackpole isn't here to look for treasure. He had, under his arm, what might appear to be a clunky toy blue submarine about the size of a lunchbox. The machine is the latest prototype of the OpenROV-an open-source, remotely operated vehicle that could map the cave in 3D using software from Autodesk and collect water in places too tight for a diver to go. It could change the future of ocean exploration. ... NEEMO caught the eye of NASA after winning a regional International Space Apps Challenge, where 2000 hacker participants gathered across the internet and worked collaboratively on 71 problems over a 48-hour deadline."

More from Brian Lam at The New York Times

ESA Tests Self-steering Rover in 'Mars' Desert

"ESA assembled a top engineering team, then challenged them to devise a way for rovers to navigate on alien planets. Six months later, a fully autonomous vehicle was charting its course through Chile's Mars-like Atacama Desert. May's full-scale rover field test marked the final stage of a StarTiger project code-named 'Seeker'. Standing for 'Space Technology Advancements by Resourceful, Targeted and Innovative Groups of Experts and Researchers', StarTiger involves a multidisciplinary team gathered at a single site, working against the clock to achieve a technology breakthrough."

Sample Return Robot Return Challenge

NASA Sample Return Robot Return Challenge at WPI Concludes

"Autonomous robots roamed across the grassy terrain at Worcester Polytechnic Institute searching for samples to collect at the 2012 Sample Return Robot Challenge in Worcester, Mass., June 14-17. The challenge: design, develop and demonstrate the next generation of robots capable of exploring the landscapes of other worlds. Eleven teams initially registered for the competition. Six teams made it to WPI for the start of the challenge. After weigh-in and inspections, one team (Space Pride -- successfully met all requirements and competed in the challenge but did not win a cash prize."

Tumbleweed Rovers on Mars

How to keep a Mars tumbleweed rover moving on rocky terrain

"New research from North Carolina State University shows that a wind-driven "tumbleweed" Mars rover would be capable of moving across rocky Martian terrain - findings that could also help the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) design the best possible vehicle. "There is quite a bit of interest within NASA to pursue the tumbleweed rover design, but one of the questions regarding the concept is how it might perform on the rocky surface of Mars," says Dr. Andre Mazzoleni, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research. "We set out to address that question."

NASA's Lunabotics Mining Competition

NASA Invites Media To Annual Lunabotics Mining Competition

"More than 50 teams of undergraduate and graduate students from eight countries will come to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida May 21-26 to take part in the third annual Lunabotics Mining Competition. The teams have designed and built remote controlled or autonomous robots that can excavate simulated lunar soil. During the competition, the teams' designs, known as lunabots, will go head-to-head to determine whose machine can collect and deposit the most simulated moon dust within a specified amount of time."

Ice Droids For Use on Hoth

Yeti Robot Tackles Crevasse Detection in Polar Regions

"During the 2010-11 field season in Antarctica, personnel at the South Pole Station used a series of small explosions to collapse several old buildings, which had been buried under the ice for decades but that had become a hazard to surface travel. The question this past season: Was it now safe to travel over an area known as Old Pole, the first research station built by the United States back in the 1950s? The U.S. Antarctic Program enlisted Yeti to find out. No, not the 10-foot-tall creature with a serious hirsute problem. This Yeti doesn't come with hair -- just four wheels, a metal body, a bunch of batteries and high-tech radar. It's the creation of Dartmouth College's Thayer School of Engineering, specially designed to operate in the polar regions."

Terraforming a landscape for a robotic rover, ESA

"Challenged to design a background for a small rover controlled from space, students in Germany have delivered a futuristic cityscape. The cool space art will be seen by astronauts in orbit via the rover's camera eye as they remotely control their avatar later this year. The ultimate goal is for robot astronauts to roam around hazardous places like Mars and asteroids guided by human controllers safely orbiting overhead in their spacecraft. As a first step, ESA is linking the International Space Station and Earth for remotely controlling terrestrial test robots from the orbital outpost."

Astrobotic's Moon Rover

Astrobotic Technology Reveals Design for Robot to Prospect at Moon's Poles

"Astrobotic Technology unveiled its new Polaris lunar rover design, which will prospect for potentially rich deposits of water ice, methane and other resources at the moon's north pole in three years. A powerful Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX will launch Polaris from Cape Canaveral in late October 2015. Four days later Polaris will land during north pole summer, when patches of ground that are in cold shadow most of the year get brief illumination. This is where ice will be found closest to the surface, and when a solar-powered robot will get the sunlight needed to sustain exploration. Polaris will search for ice for the next 12 days until sundown in early November."

NASA and GM Are Developing New Droids

GM, NASA Jointly Developing Robotic Gloves for Human Use

"General Motors and NASA are jointly developing a robotic glove that auto workers and astronauts can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. The Human Grasp Assist device, known internally in both organizations as the K-glove or Robo-Glove, resulted from GM and NASA's Robonaut 2 (R2) project, which launched the first human-like robot into space in 2011. R2 is a permanent resident of the International Space Station."

NASA's New Robotic Partnership

Academy of Art University and NASA Announce Design Partnership

"This semester, Academy of Art University Industrial Design students will collaborate with the NASA Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, California) to design a user interface that will allow future astronauts in space to remotely operate a robot on Earth. A number of thesis level students have been chosen and will use a variety of design skills to complete the project, including storyboarding, task analysis, ideation, brainstorming, sketching and rendering. The students' work will be used to create the user interface elements, including icons wireframes and glyphs. Simultaneously the team is identifying opportunities for additional design disciplines to be integrated into the experience. Already the team is starting conceptual work on interior architecture, product design, and apparel."

Autonomous Space Capture Challenge Opens Algorithmic Crowdsourcing to General Public

"TopCoder(R), Inc., the world's largest competitive Community of digital creators and MIT, today announced registration has opened for the Autonomous Space Capture Challenge, an algorithm competition from Zero Robotics which seeks computationally efficient code solutions for a hypothetical mission scenario which models autonomous docking or satellite servicing procedures. The online challenge is open to all eligible participants but especially teams from high schools and colleges. Four winning submissions will be tested aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in the recently established SPHERES national laboratory by astronauts. Successful teams will be invited to watch the event live onsite at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or via webcast feed remotely."

Community College Scholars Selected to Design Robotic Rovers

"Community college students will have the chance to design robotic rovers in cooperation with NASA. Ninety-two students from schools in 24 states have been selected to travel to a NASA center to develop rovers through the National Community College Aerospace Scholars program. The initiative provides hands-on opportunities to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Students will visit either NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., from May 1-3, or NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston from May 9-11. The teams will establish fictional companies pursuing Mars exploration. Each team will develop, design and build a prototype rover, then use their prototypes to navigate a course, collect rocks and water and return to a home base."

Pop-Up Robots on Mars?

In New Mass-production Technique, Robotic Insects Spring to Life, Harvard University

"A new technique inspired by elegant pop-up books and origami will soon allow clones of robotic insects to be mass-produced by the sheet. Devised by engineers at Harvard, the ingenious layering and folding process enables the rapid fabrication of not just microrobots, but a broad range of electromechanical devices. In prototypes, 18 layers of carbon fiber, Kapton (a plastic film), titanium, brass, ceramic, and adhesive sheets have been laminated together in a complex, laser-cut design. The structure incorporates flexible hinges that allow the three-dimensional product--just 2.4 millimeters tall--to assemble in one movement, like a pop-up book."

Keith's note: Imagine if NASA could achieve packing density for its spacecraft like this - especially for landers. On Mars, for example, swarms of flying probes, covered with photovoltaic materials, armed with sensors, could fan out from a landing site to take measurements. Or a larger glider or balloon coudl release them over a larger area and have them report data back while they are within communications range.

DARPA's Legged Squad Support System (LS3) To Lighten Troops' Load [VIDEO]

"Today's dismounted warfighter can be saddled with more than 100 pounds of gear, resulting in physical strain, fatigue and degraded performance. Reducing the load on dismounted warfighters has become a major point of emphasis for defense research and development, because the increasing weight of individual equipment has a negative impact on warfighter readiness. The Army has identified physical overburden as one of its top five science and technology challenges. To help alleviate physical weight on troops, DARPA is developing a highly mobile, semi-autonomous legged robot, the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), to integrate with a squad of Marines or Soldiers."

Bot Battle in Space

Spheres Final Robot competition in Zero-gravity

"School teams from Europe and America have been commanding robots competing in the Spheres ZeroRobotics tournament in space. The arena: 400 km above Earth on the International Space Station. Student teams could send a single piece of instruction software to control the small robotic 'Spheres'. The goal of the tournament was to earn points through masterful operation via guidance and navigation control algorithms as well as choosing the best tactics to win the game."

Recreating Avatar Technology at Home

"This is the culmination of my last year's work. I control the robot's arms through the Kinect and Wii remotes. I control the robot's navigation through the Kinect and treadmill. I control the robot's head through the head mounted display (HMD). I also see through the robot's eyes with the HMD. After doing this exercise, it became apparent that the next feature to add is hearing and speaking through the robot. Luckily both the NAO and my HMD have microphones and speakers so this shouldn't be too difficult." More information.

This about this: In addition to recreating the basic technology depicted in the film "Avatar", this also shos how straightforward it is to create telepresence. One would hope NASA is looking at simple, commercially available and easily adaptable interfaces such as these whereby Robonuat can be controlled - from the ISS and from Earth.

Flight Assembled Architecture/Architectures volantes from FRAC Centre on Vimeo.

Flying Machine Enabled Construction, ETH

Keith's note: One would think that the software developed by this team could be adapted to robots operating in space to assemble large structures such as solar power satellites or on the surface of the Moon to construct a lunar base. Indeed, you could take 3D printing software and scale it up such that you use remotely operated droids to "print out" a base on the moon using local materials.

Liquid Robotics Ocean Robots Embark on World Record Journey Across Pacific Ocean to Foster New Scientific Discoveries

"At San Francisco's St. Francis Yacht Club, Liquid Robotics(R), an ocean data services provider and developer of the first wave-powered Wave Glider(R) ocean robot, launched four Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider ocean robots on a record-setting journey across the Pacific Ocean -- the longest distance ever attempted by an unmanned ocean vehicle. The purpose of this unprecedented PacX (Pacific crossing) voyage is to foster new scientific discoveries in ocean science by making available vast amounts of ocean data collected and transmitted globally during the Wave Gliders' yearlong journey. Liquid Robotics and Ocean in Google Earth are providing a platform for the world to follow the expedition virtually, while Virgin Oceanic and Liquid Robotics will jointly explore the Mariana Trench."

Innovators Sought for DARPA Satellite Servicing Program, DARPA

"More than $300 billion worth of satellites are estimated to be in the geosynchronous orbit (GEO--22,000 miles above the earth). Many of these satellites have been retired due to normal end of useful life, obsolescence or failure; yet many still have valuable components, such as antennas, that could last much longer than the life of the satellite. When satellites in GEO "retire," they are put into a GEO disposal or "graveyard" orbit. DARPA's Phoenix program seeks to develop technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO and demonstrate the ability to create new space systems at greatly reduced cost."

Mind Reading Computer System May Allow Paralyzed People To Communicate and Control Robots, NSF

"Imagine living a life in which you are completely aware of the world around you but you're prevented from engaging in it because you are completely paralyzed. Even speaking is impossible. For an estimated 50,000 Americans, this is a harsh reality. It's called locked-in syndrome, a condition in which people with normal cognitive brain activity suffer severe paralysis, often from injuries or an illness such as Lou Gehrig's disease."

Think about this: this is clearly one of the major steps in the path toward creading the human/machine interface used inthe film "Avatar" wherein a paraplegic person was able to remotely control an "avatar" body. The same technology could aid astronauts n the operation of various robotic vehicles in remote and hazardous locations.

Crowdsourcing UAV Designs

Defense Department looks to crowd-source new drone innovations, Washington Post

"Called UAVForge, the competition is open to individuals, such as scientists, engineers or aircraft hobbyists, as well as to teams of contestants. The task is to come up with ideas for a small, silent aircraft that could be controlled from two miles away and monitor people or cars in an urban area for up to two hours while sending back still photos or video."


Liquid Robotics Announces Pacific Crossing (PacX) Grand Challenge to Worldwide Science Community

"Liquid Robotics invites scientists to embark on a grand challenge journey with us as we cross the Pacific on a voyage of scientific discovery," said Ed Lu, chief of innovative applications at Liquid Robotics. "These Wave Gliders are much like small 'spacecraft' that open up new opportunities for robotic exploration. I challenge all scientists who are interested in advancing ocean exploration to take advantage of this unique opportunity. What scientific questions can we address with this new and unique data set?"

Think about this: There are proposed missions wherein spacecraft would be sent to Titan and place a vehicle on hydrocarbon lakes which they would then explore in a fashion similar to Wave Glider. Other concepts would send cryobots to tunnel through the icy crust of Europa, Enceladus, and other worlds and then explore the oceans that may exist beneath the surface. It is not at all surprising that former astronaut Ed Lu has joined Liquid Robotics to work on this project. NASA knows a lot about rovers and landers - but not a lot about sailing or diving vessels. Imagine what NASA could learn about operating vehicles that swim on alien worlds if they were to participate in this project.

Video: Construction with Quadrotor Teams

Watch as these quadrotors (small helicopters) construct a small structure - alone and as a team. Imagine if you could replace the rotors with small cold gas jets for use in microgravity or on the Moon. More info at Upenn's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory (via io9)

DARwIn - OP: (Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence - Open Platform) is an affordable, miniature-humanoid-robot platform with advanced computational power, sophisticated sensors, high payload capacity, and dynamic motion ability to enable many exciting research, education, and outreach activities. Darwin runs on UbuntuLinux (adaptable to other systems).

- More information at Source Forge
- More information at Robotis Home Page

Imagine the NASA hacking applications. Remove the legs and put this robot's upper body on a small ROV. Make the arms longer, add better (and exchangeable) end effectors, and put better optics in its head. Video below.

NASA is challenging U.S. and international undergraduate and graduate student teams to design and build a remote-controlled or autonomous excavator that could be used on the moon. The excavator must be able to collect and deposit a minimum of 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of lunar simulant in 15 minutes.

Design teams must include one faculty advisor from a college or university and two or more undergraduate or graduate students. A group of universities may work in collaboration, and multidisciplinary teams are encouraged.

Selected teams will compete in the Lunabotics Mining Competition at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23-28, 2011. Teams must apply no later than Feb. 28, 2011. There will be a limited number of teams allowed to compete.