ProtoInnovations, LLC is developing a rover-based non-prehensile manipulation (RBNPM) control architecture and associated algorithms, tools, and metrics to maximize the mobile manipulation capabilities of robotic rovers using existing actuated degrees-of-freedom (DoF) such as wheel rotation or steering. These new or improved capabilities allow rovers to change the environment around them to improve terrainability, perform new scientific investigations, or accomplish basic construction tasks without the need for complex, high-DoF manipulators.
In Phase I of this SBIR the RBNPM control architecture was thoroughly developed along with metrics for the evaluation of RBNPM actions. Functional validation of this architecture was performed via field testing on a rover and in simulation. Preliminary analysis of RBNPM actions was performed to verify the feasibility of the specific RBNPM actions trenching and digging. Results from Phase I show that trenching and digging behaviors are possible on a rover with no dedicated trenching or digging manipulators.
Phase II of this SBIR will take the development from open-loop RBNPM actions to closed-loop controllable RBNPM actions, and create new RBNPM actions with low-DoF passive or actuated implements. At the end of Phase II, a more complete prototype RBNPM architecture for mobile manipulation along with controllers and tools for specific RBNPM actions will be produced.
The proposed robotic innovations will aid NASA will enable new concepts for missions to the Moon and Mars. Actions such as pushing rocks or moving loose soil into precarious ditches to create new navigable terrain will aid extreme-terrain mobility. Additionally, robotic excavation objectives will be simplified from controlled rover-based non-prehensile actions. This project will also provide a new perspectives on mobility/manipulator components and mobile manipulation architectures.
Rover-Based Non-Prehensile Controls could transform mining, construction, farming, infrastructure, and utility applications that call for robust and innovative solutions to automation of work activities. Where the cost of additional complexity is prohibitive, this technology promises to be the next standard, integrated by Original Equipment Manufacturers into a variety of vehicles and machinery.