Up to this point in space exploration, robots have been solitary explorers commanded ultimately from Earth. Sure, they may have used other spacecraft for communication relays as some Mars landers have done, but they have not been controlled by other machines. Now, that may be changing. As this story from the Telegraph states, “Robotic airships and satellites will fly above the surface of the distant world, commanding squadrons of wheeled rovers and floating robot boats, according to Wolfgang Fink of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).” Robots will use networks to control other robots. This will allow redundancy in the operations. Cheap rovers and flyers can be deployed to explore the surface, while an orbiting spacecraft oversees the operations. In order for this to work, the controlling robots must have the ability to make intelligent choices of where to send its minions or when to shut down a malfunctioning bot. Prof Fink, director of Caltech's Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory, is leading his team in “developing software that would let a robotic explorer act independently and as part of a network. They would select priorities for exploration and anticipate and handle problems on their own.”
Papers describing this new exploration are published in the journal Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine and in the Proceedings of the SPIE. For more information on this work, visit http://autonomy.caltech.edu . You can find information on JPL missions is at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ .
Alien worlds may be explored by armies of flying, driving and sailing robots, say scientists.
By Tom Chivers
Robotic airships and satellites will fly above ...
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Robot armies 'will explore alien worlds'
Wed, 28 Oct 2009 10:19:37 GMT