NASA STTR 2009 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 09-1 T1.02-9872
RESEARCH SUBTOPIC TITLE: Information Technologies for Intelligent Planetary Robotics
PROPOSAL TITLE: Reliable Autonomous Surface Mobility (RASM) in Support of Human Exploration

NAME: ProtoInnovations, LLC NAME: Carnegie Mellon University
STREET: 1908 Shaw Avenue STREET: 5000 Forbes Ave
CITY: Pittsburgh CITY: Pittsburgh
STATE/ZIP: PA  15217 - 1710 STATE/ZIP: PA  15213 - 3890
PHONE: (412) 916-8807 PHONE: (412) 268-5421

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
David S Wettergreen

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 4
End: 6

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
ProtoInnovations, LLC and Carnegie Mellon University have formed a partnership to commercially develop rover-autonomy technologies into Reliable Autonomous Surface Mobility (RASM). Our aim is to provide safe and reliable means for lunar rovers to travel at substantial speeds and operate in proximity to astronauts and other vehicles. Our unique partnership brings together state-of-art technologies for autonomous rover navigation with experience in delivering and supporting mobility systems for NASA.

The RASM project will create an autonomy framework that is capable of supporting off-road vehicle speeds beyond 3 m/s with planetary-relevant constraints including a lack of infrastructure (such as GPS) and limited communication and computing resources. Our RASM framework is based on environment modeling, obstacle avoidance, path planning, and localization algorithms developed by Carnegie Mellon and proven by hundreds of kilometers of traverse in planetary analog landscapes on Earth.

On the RASM project we will mature and package these algorithms in a reliable and portable software architecture that supports a variety of vehicle platforms, sensors, and middleware alternatives. Unique to RASM will be a failure-modes analysis of the autonomy system to model and mitigate hazards posed by operating alongside astronauts and lunar vehicles.

Mission constraints and operating scenarios will vary broadly, so RASM will be adaptable. We will develop abstraction layers to enable portability across various vehicle chassis configurations, perception sensors, localization sensors, and communications protocols. In Phase 1 of our project, we will demonstrate the ease with which RASM can be ported by implementing it on a rover such as the Lunar All-Terrain Utility Vehicle (LATUV) developed by ProtoInnovations. Our goal is to advance autonomy-system TRL from 4 to 6 on the contract.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The technical innovations advanced by this project will have immediate application on the Lunar All-Terrain Utility Vehicle and enable it to achieve its full capability as it becomes a research appliance for NASA. We also see direct applicability of this work to other lunar rovers developed by NASA as part of the research and development program in lunar surface systems. ProtoInnovations will seek to sustain this work by developing portable software for rover navigational autonomy that can be adapted and applied to a wide range of lunar vehicles.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The Canadian Space Agency has announced that it will perform intensive research in lunar rovers with plans to produce multiple concept vehicles in the next one to two years. ProtoInnovations will aggressively pursue this market and apply its expertise in autonomy and navigation to CSA rovers. We are currently negotiating with Canadian aerospace corporations regarding licensing of navigation and mobility technology.

We also believe that our effort can be sustained by our unique capability and experience which we believe is valuable to emerging lunar rover activities in China, Japan, and India/Russia. The market for lunar rover autonomy is not large but it is highly technical and critical to success in lunar missions. ProtoInnovations intends to continue research and development and position itself as the world leader in rover navigation software and experience.

Markets exist for specific components in our system. One strong example is perception for correcting position drift without GPS. Several commercial products exist that filter GPS data with measurements from IMUs, encoders, and so on. Such systems are robust to GPS drop outs but not as robust to long-term losses of GPS. In these cases, inertial measurements and dead-reckoning drift and the resulting localization error increases over time and distance traveled. Our SLAM-like method of optimizing the merging of terrain meshes could prove to be a useful add-on technology for commercially available positioning systems.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems

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