Robotic systems that are able to work autonomously on alien planets or moons are equally well suited for applications on earth. Examples are the management of maritime resources, search and rescue, or medical rehabilitation. The goal of the project TransTerrA is to further develop the space technologies available at DFKI within a complex scenario and to make them available for terrestrial applications.
Scenario: a team of robots explores the lunar surface
Complex robotic missions attain an increasing importance for the exploration of our solar system. Ever more sophisticated experiments, the retrieval of samples or even the preparation of manned missions to alien bodies such as the moon or Mars cannot be achieved by individual systems any more, but need to be distributed to several missions. The scenario in TransTerrA demonstrates the (semi-) autonomous exploration of planetary surfaces using a cooperating robot team consisting of a rover and a shuttle. The shuttle?s task is to supply the rover which requires the installation of a logistic chain, i.e. the setup of reliable channels of supply over several waypoints. Human operators on earth will be able to control the mission using novel human-machine interfaces.
In order to build up the logistic chain so-called base-camps will be used in order to bridge large distances between a lander and the rover. Depending on its task, which could be a depot for energy or soil samples, or a relay station for communication, a base-camp can be extended by functional modules. Base-camps, replaceable functional modules, rover and shuttle possess a compatible docking interface so that the shuttle as well as the rover can modify the base-camps using modules delivered to them. Additionally, the modules can be exchanged between shuttle and rover.
The rover is based on the hybrid wheel-step robot Sherpa, the shuttle is based on Asguard, a result of project iMoby. As part of the research agenda the technology readiness of Sherpa will be increased, and along with it the space readiness of individual subcomponents. The mission control center, being the interface between human operator and exploration robot, consists on one hand of an upper body exoskeleton as it was developed in project Capio for controlling the systems, and on the other hand of modern visualization tools such as 3-dimensional multi-projection screens and head-mounted displays (HMDs). The experiences from project IMMI will be used to optimize the control center technology considering psycho-physiological data such as EEG and eye tracking.
Technology transfer to terrestrial applications
The robotic technologies of all involved systems developed within the space exploration scenario, including their cooperation, the installation of a logistic chain, and a suitable human-machine interface, will be transferred into the terrestrial application domains search and rescue, management of maritime resources, and rehabilitation. This demonstrates the exchangeability and mutual applicability of technologies from space and terrestrial robotics. In each of the application domains an individual scenario will be defined, demonstrating the transferability of technologies and systems.