Autonomy and Robotics

Autonomy and Robotics are currently considered as the ideal solution for 3D (dull, difficult and dangerous) tasks in the space domain. Robots could already replace astronauts for high time consuming and repetitive tasks implying the manipulation of large masses with high precision. Even more, the use of robots could enable activities not being attempted by humans (satellite maintenance, sample collection on planets, in-situ exploration). In this context, the autonomy, understood as robot independence from human control, is a key-feature of such systems. The human operator can be thousands of kilometers away from the robotics system and the robot must react against a changing and hostile environment.

Drawing on GNC space technologies, GMV is transferring its expertise to the main robotics areas (autonomy using artificial intelligence techniques as planning, scheduling and multi-agents, path-planning and wheel control for rover navigation, manipulation and grasping through robotic arms, environment perception using laser, stereovision and time-of-flight devices).

The current capabilities of GMV in the autonomy and robotics domain include:

  • Autonomy: Artificial Intelligence techniques such as planning, scheduling and multi-agents. Special focus for robotics systems and satellites requiring advanced cognitive features while at the same time generating bullet-proof software in an automated way (correct-by-construction paradigm).
  • GMV has also developed, within an ESA project, a general-purpose autonomous controller (GOAC) as a generic platform applicable to a wide range of ESA's space robotics applications. This space platform provides AI capabilities based on the interleaving execution-with-planning paradigm and constructed over the GenoM robotics framework enhanced with correct-by-construction techniques.
  • Rover design and manufacturing: several rovers have been developed by GMV as demonstration platforms or as application of robotic technologies: 

    • MoonHound in partnership with the UPM-CAR (Centre for Automation and Robotics)
    • EGP-Rover an autonomous 4-wheel rover including stereovision-based navigation to provide a mobility platform to TAS-I for further hosting 2 robotic arms and demonstration of the "centaur" concept
    • LRM rover, a 60-kg class rover for teleoperation purposes over a Lunar scenario
    • Exomars-like virtual rover using the 3DROV simulator as a goal-oriented autonomous robot
  • Robotic navigation: robotic navigation starts with the environment perception through exterioceptive sensors (laser, stereovision, time-of-flight), environment modeling, localization using sensor data fusion techniques from navigation sensors (IMU, gyroscope, inclinometers) and motion control through trajectory planning capabilities.
  • Robotic manipulation: control of robotic arms (KUKA, Mitsubishi) under real-time conditions, direct and inverse kinematics, motion planning, object grasping, visual serving and samples collection.
  • Robotic Control Centre: As an extension of GMV's Ground Segment capabilities, GMV also develops Robotic Control Centre facilities such as the EXOMARS mission or the RAT (Rover Autonomy Test-Bed) project.
  • SPoT (Surface Planetary Terrain): GMV hosts at its headquartes a unique area of 180m2 simulating a Martian landscape with red soil similar in granulometry to the Martian soil, rocks and a Mars panorama. This facility provides a large test area and an outdoor environment to test different robotic applications under natural lighting conditions. The soil characteristics are matched to some regions on Mars, and the rock colors, sizes and distribution are intended to match images from Martian missions. A room with windows to the terrain is where the operating centre of the rover is normally located, and a laser tracker with 0.1mm accuracy can be used as a total laser ranging station.
  • Oil & Gas robotic solutions
    • FOXIRIS: Called Flipper-based Oil & Gas ATEX Intelligent Robotics System (Foxiris), the robot is based on GMV's latest developments in planetary surface exploration rovers. It is designed to tackle risks posed to workers in the oil and gas industry.
      The robot features navigation sensors and scientific instruments, which are designed to inspect pressure dials, valves and level gauges, detect hot surfaces, sound alarms and identify gas leaks. The technology is being developed as part of Total's Autonomous Robot for Gas and Oil Sites (Argos) competition, intended to promote the creation of robots for hydrocarbon production sites in extreme conditions.

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Video gallery

Videos on the main robotics projects and events in which GMV is participating.