The goal of the FASTER project is to address three key technology developments for planetary exploration: forward looking surface properties characterisation, innovative locomotion system for a scout type rover, and collaborative operation of a mother/scout pair. 1.) The project will develop methods and instrumentation to characterise the properties of planetary surfaces in which robotic rover vehicles operate to be able to anticipate hazards in advance of locomotion and navigation over that surface. By assessing the soil trafficability for a rover, decisions affecting rover safety (avoiding becoming stuck) can be reliably taken and hazards avoided. 2.) The project will look at what innovation can be applied to ensure that the scout rover is able to operate with minimal risk of encountering hazardous situations from which it must recover. 3.) FASTER will explore the feasibility and performance of a mother/scout rover pair combination and develop methods to achieve successful collaborative and autonomous robot operation. The forward looking scout rover will be equipped with a special combination of sensor technologies to acquire soil and terrain information. This information will allow a risk model to be constructed that indicates the potential hazards that the terrain represents to the following mother rover. Reducing the locomotion and traverse risks using the proposed advances in autonomous mother / scout collaboration will allow mission operators to explore planetary surfaces with increased safety. It will make possible new levels of autonomous operations by significantly reducing the greatest uncertainty factor – namely properties of the surface material on which the rover must operate. This will lead to increased operational efficiency and, when coupled with the increased richness of the surface properties data, will lead to much higher scientific returns per capital investment for each mission.
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