Seminar: Will Reid, JPL, Oct 21st 2019

When: Monday, Oct 21st 2019, 3:00p

Where: Rose St Building Seminar Area

Title: Actively Articulated Wheel-on-Limb Mobility for Traversing Europa Analogue Terrain

Abstract: Mobile, in-situ exploration of Europa’s rugged, icy surface holds the potential for enabling discovery across multiple geologic units outside the exhaust-contaminated landing zone. The spatial and compositional diversity of surface salts and organics are of significance to our understanding Europa’s history and biological potential. Our knowledge of Europa’s surface properties, both topographic and mechanical, is extremely limited. Furthermore, additional data will not become available prior to the arrival of the Europa Clipper spacecraft. If the exploration of Europa continues to be an area of high science-value, this work postulates that solutions to the challenges of mobility on uncertain, but likely challenging, surfaces should be developed now.

In this presentation, I discuss the development of a multi-modal locomotion system and the results of field trials performed on salt-evaporites and fractured glacial ice. Work was performed using the RoboSimian vehicle: a 32 degree-of-freedom, actively articulated mobility system. Three modes of mobility are compared: wheel rolling, push-rolling (inchworming) and wheel walking. Each mobility mode is designed to operate with articulated suspension whereby the normal load per wheel, body orientation, and available limb workspace are actively controlled. Each mode is presented individually alongside a discussion of its performance on terrain of varied slope and topographic roughness. Further, the utility of a multi-modal approach is presented, whereby vehicle immobilization was avoided during field trials through the selection of appropriate mobility modes as a function of terrain properties. Finally, the results of trials performed using a body-mounted sampling system and its ability to collect and process samples taken 10 cm beneath the surface are discussed.

Bio: Will Reid is a Robotics Technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His research investigates wheel-on-limb mobility strategies for efficient robotic locomotion on the Ocean Worlds of Enceladus and Europa. Will received a PhD from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney and received bachelors’ degrees in Mechatronics Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Melbourne. His PhD thesis investigated system design, motion modelling and path planning for a high degree-of-freedom wheel-on-limb robot operating on a Martian analogue terrain.


Sydney Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems