UK-based Entities Test Self-Driving Martian Robot in Morocco

Posted: January 8, 2019

A group of companies and universities from the UK have completed the testing of a Martian robot at Ibn Battuta Test Centre in Morocco.

Airbus Defence & Space, Thales Alenia Space, Scisys, King’s College London, University of Strathclyde, and GMV-UK took part in the month-long test in the Sahara Desert.

As part of the test, the scientists mounted newly developed software systems onto a four-wheeled rover called ‘Sherpa’, which was provided by German Robotics Innovation Centre DFKI.

The robot travelled more than 1.4km without human interaction during the trial, making its own decisions about where to go and how to reach there.

During the test, scientists also trialled a new autonomous technology called ERGO, as well as the INFUSE Data Fusion technology that is designed to combine data from different sensors and sources in order to create useful information such as maps.

Scientists also tested the I3DS Plug And Play Sensor Suite and the ESROCOS Operating System.

Representatives from the UK Space Agency, along with German, French, Spanish, Italian and European Space Agencies (ESA), coordinated the team of scientists involved in the test.

The tests are part of a series of research projects called Space Robotics Strategic Research Cluster, financed by European Commission’s Horizon2020 Programme.

UK Space Agency Growth director Catherine Mealing-Jones said: “Mars is a very difficult planet to land safely on, so it’s essential to maximise the discoveries from each successful touchdown.

“New autonomous robot technology like this will help to further unlock Mars’ mysteries and I’m delighted that the UK is a key player in this cutting-edge field.”

Airbus in Stevenage currently serves as the prime contractor for the new ESA Exomars rover, which is scheduled to land on Mars in 2020.

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