This project is developing, testing, and integrating hardware systems and software techniques to enable the co-localization of teams of rovers, specifically targeting small-scale, low size, weight, and power rovers. Utilizing inertial measurement units (IMU), ultra-wideband (UWB) ranging radio, and a model-based approach to relative visual range, bearing, and pose estimation, each rover in a team of small rovers will demonstrate co-localization.
The project will pursue several parallel threads of research and development and culminate in the integration of several of these threads to demonstrate the developed technology:
Maturation of ranging radio subsystem, including developing error models of the sensor system as well as environmental and power testing of UWB chipsets for flight readiness
Development of visual relative pose estimation and associated error models for these estimations
Development and fabrication of a sensor package that includes camera, ranging system, IMU, and processing board
Integration of the ranging system and visual relative pose estimation together in the sensor package, develop software that fuses the sensor information, and demonstrate the sensor systems co-localization functionality in a relevant mission context.
The proposed research will develop simple and robust techniques for co-localizing multiple rovers in a planetary environment and perception/sensing technologies that incorporate considerations for relevant concepts of operations. We will demonstrate and benchmark a software framework and prototype sensor hardware for tightly coupled multi-agent co-localization in this Phase II contract.
NASA CLPS payloads will become increasingly ambitious and complex in future missions, and as such, will depend more on co-localization technology. Such technology could also enable missions in undiscovered areas of our solar system such as on the surface of Titan or Mars. NASA’s New Horizons mission to explore Titan with a paired drone and rover, as well as its Mars Helicopter mission are excellent examples of missions that could benefit from improvements in paired navigation.
Co-localization has utility in the mining, military, and transportation industries. Exploring, mapping, and navigating underground is critical for areas too treacherous for human activity. Teams of co-localizing mining robots could aid in mapping dangerous areas. The capability to reliably co-localize will become an increasingly critical feature for autonomous aircraft as well.