How is the Automation and Robotics Laboratory equipped?

Planetary Utilisation Testbed
The Planetary Utilisation Testbed

The Laboratory is equipped with a number of specialised facilities:

Planetary Utilisation Testbed – (PUTB) composed of a square 8m by 8 m terrain 'sandbox' filled with different sizes of sand, gravel and rock, the PUTB has been constructed to help test robotics devices for planetary surface motion. The terrain includes a small crater, a boulder field, a sandy dune and a gravel slope area. Laboratory measurement systems can be used to precisely characterise the configuration of the terrain during a test and the performance of a rover moving across it.

Eurobot Testbed – This testbed is made up of sections of realistic-scale ISS modules, used to support the Eurobot project, aimed at developing a robot spacewalker for exterior repairs. The robot system can walk across the sections using handrails and manipulate objects under operator command. The testbed serves as a development environment for some of the technologies used in the Eurobot project including the ESA Exoskeleton, the CONTEXT robot controller and vision-based robot control.

Haptic Telemanipulation Testbed – 'Haptic' means the sense of touch; this testbed employs different arm-exoskeleton haptic devices for direct robot telemanipulation. The devices once worn by an operator can be linked to a robot arm, which reproduces the movement of the operator and returns force-feedback data to enable highly-intuitive and precise remote manipulation.

Internal Robotics Evaluation Testbed – This testbed is made up of a series of payload mockups that can be operated by a central robot system, used for assessing payload automation and telecommand designs. The testbed has been used for controller hardware and software development, calibration techniques and ground segment systems allowing the planning and verification of robotic activity before it is carried out.

Videolab – used to assess computer vision algorithms/systems used in the automation of space laboratories.

General purpose industrial robots – Arm-type medium-to-large sized robots with various grippers, sensors and controllers, used for testing ISS applications.

Specialised measurement systems – Specifically designed or acquired for the characterisation of robot systems, including a RIEGL LMS-Z210I Terrestrial Laser Scanner for 3D measurement of objects or terrain and the Krypton RODYM 6D Robot Measurement and Calibration System and VICON motion-capture system, with these last high precision measurement of position, velocity and acceleration of robot motion is possible.

A combination of hardware and software is used for terramechanics measurements – assessing rover performance in terms of vehicle- and wheel-soil interaction, developed through an ESA project called Rover Chassis Evaluation Tools (RCET). They include single-wheel and whole-rover measurement systems as well as simulators.

Computing facilities – A selection of state-of-the-art commercial computer tools including kinematic and dynamic simulation of robot systems, computer-aided control system design, real-time control software development, 3D visualisation development, computer vision application development and video production. Purpose-developed computer tools include systems for robot remote control, robot operations planning, visual simulation of robot motion and terramechanics performance simulation. The new 3DROV simulator system allows the assessment of rover designs within realistic representations of planetary environments.

The Laboratory is also in the process of developing an additional testbed called DOME, a highly-controlled and atmospherically sealed generic environment which can be reconfigured to mimic conditions prevailing on the Moon, Mars and other planetary bodies.

Last update: 4 September 2013

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