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AUTONOMOUS DECISION MAKING IN VERY LONG TRAVERSES

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ADE (AUTONOMOUS DECISION MAKING IN VERY LONG TRAVERSES)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2021-04-30

ADE aims to build a demonstrator for a planetary exploration rover in which the technologies developped in the previous PERASPERA SRC call (SRC2016) are to be combined. ADE uses these building blocks to generate a Robotic Planetary demonstrator and a terrestrial Demonstrator for a nuclear decommissioning scenario.
ADE aims to demonstrate the techniques needed to realize a planetary rover system with very long traverse capabilities (kilometers per sol) by independently taking the decisions required to progress, reduce risks and seize opportunities of data collection. The rover will be required to travel independently from a starting point (e.g. a lander) towards and end point (say a cache of sample), perform independent opportunistic science on the way and return to the lander with the acquired soil sample. The outcome sought in OG10 is the demonstration of such capabilities in a terrestrial analogue of a planetary environment.

The components of ADE can significantly improve the performance parameters of future space missions. The technology from ADE can also be used in Earth applications such as nuclear, oil & gas and energy, agriculture and deep mining.

ADE had the following main specific objectives:

Obj 1. Achieve autonomous long range navigation over distances in the range of kilometers per sol.
Obj 2. Guarantee consistent data detection while avoiding un-detection of interesting data along mission path.
Obj 3. Autonomous decision making capabilities (E4) in presence of conflicts.
Obj 4. ADE has to be built over existing Building Blocks (SRC Call 1 OGs all except OG5 not required for ADE ) and on complementary European robotic technologies.
Obj 5. Reach a higher TRL level for its future use in space.
Obj 6. The system must demonstrate that it is capable of keeping the rover in safe conditions in the presence of failures or any unexpected events.
Obj 7. Achieve a flexible-purpose surface robotic system design.
Obj 8. Spin-off / ground exploitation and commercialization via the development of a terrestrial use case.
Obj 9. Dissemination/Communication and Exploitation.
Obj 10. Collaboration/harmonization with other Call 2 OGs consortiums.
The project has consisted of the following working packages:

WP-000 Management and OG2 Maintenance (Feb’2019-April’2021) Administrative, technical, and financial management of the project. Interfacing with the other OGs, REA and PSA. This major task extended during the whole project, from T0 to T0+27 months (tagged as WP7 in the ECAS system, it does not allow the index 0 for a task).

WP-100: Technology Review and system requirements (Feb’2019/June’2019) to assess and survey the state-of-the-art in the field of long-range autonomous navigation currently being used or developed for terrestrial and/or space-based use, and develop the requirements for both demonstrators.

WP-200: Preliminary Design and Modelling (June 2019-Nov 2019) to perform the preliminary design of the architecture. This task had a duration of 6 months till PDR (12/11/2019) in which a review was held at GMV premises. During this phase, a Trip to Fuerteventura was issued to scout for possible field test areas. Data for Ground Truth was collected for a set of areas on the island. Contacts with local authorities were also performed and the pros and cons for each possible area for the planetary field tests were identified.

WP-300: Detailed Design of Demonstrator and Test Setup (Nov 2019-May 2020) detailed design for planetary and nuclear demonstrators. SW bread-boarding/prototyping till the required level to integrate it into the rover simulator. Detailed Design validation through simulator-based simulation tests. From the moment which the Covid emergency broke out, all the meetings were held via teleconferences and the interaction in joint meetings with the partners. This phase concluded with the Critical Design Review meeting (CDR) held on 18/05/2021.

WP-400: Manufacturing, Assembly integration and testing (May 2020/Feb 2021) aimed to provide the final, integrated demonstrator of the autonomous long traverse system and the integrated model of the demonstrator as fully functional representative of space scenario (and related test equipment) ready to start the final Mars analog system tests. A preliminary integration of the avionics was performed by GMV and DFKI at DFKI facilities in Bremen, during July’2020. For the realization of the preliminary tests, two different scenarios were prepared:1) Bremen Galloprenbähn facilities: (October'2020),2) “sandbox” from DFKI (nov'2020-Jan'2021): an indoor scenario located at DFKI facilities. This phase ended at TRR.

WP-500: Test Execution and Results Correlation (Feb-2021/Apr-2021) aimed to conduct an empirical evaluation of the reference implementations of ADE for the reference scenarios (planetary and terrestrial). The field tests for both scenarios. Field tests for the nuclear were conducted at GMV facilities in Madrid (Tres cantos), meanwhile, tests for the planetary were performed in Wuhlsbuttel (Germany) The dataset corresponding to the tests was analyzed and condensed into the test reports for the planetary and the nuclear.

WP-600: DISSEMINATION: dissemination and communication activities focusing on the spread of the ADE solution. Both passive and active actions have been developed. About 30 papers/conference contributions, about 5 videos, about 20 events, as well as about 60 press / social media & TV appearances were be realized. The tests were shared via Instagram and Facebook, as well as a local German TV broadcast. Tests were video-documented and uploaded to the public website.
During the field tests we managed to perform an autonomous traverse of 484 m in 2.85 hours, which is an excellent mark for planetary rovers. Localization performances were also high, with a 0.4 % of deviation w.r.t the traversed distance. All Tests for the different sub-components were successful.
For the nuclear field tests, the system achieved all its objectives. The characteristics of ADE make it unique in terms of autonomy, since it has an onboard planner capable of organizing its tasks at mission level. The on-board planner, combined with the scientific agent, can increase radically the scientific return of future space missions. Moreover, partners will develop their technology further for its use in terrrestrial applications and future space misions.
Moreover the mixed-initiative concept, in which plans can be elaborated on ground, was developed for the Ground station. ADE' groundstation has been also used in an ESA-funded project, MIPTOOL, aimed to the use of robots for logistic operations in oil and gas facilities, in which GMV had the collaboration of an Spanish Oil and Gas company.
Socioeconomic impacts are related to aspects that go beyond the PERASPERA PSA framework, having an impact on economical and societal aspects. To This respect:
1. ADE will create new market opportunities in Space robotics and enhance the innovation capabilities of the entities involved.
2. ADE will improve the competitiveness of European space robotics in the field of robotics and onboard autonomy.
3. ADE will increase interest in space robotics in European society by disseminating the project activities to the general public
4. ADE will promote spin-in and spin-off with projects related to Earth applications such as nuclear, oil & gas and energy, agriculture, and deep mining.
Types of terrain traversed during the tests
Members of the GMV team and PSA, during Nuclear field tests execution
The SherpaTT rover during the planetary demonstrator tests in Wulsbüttel
Integration of the avionics box in the SherpaTT
Description of the WP and its associated timeline