|Contact Person||M.Sc. Lennart Kryza|
|Funded by||Federal Ministry for Economy and Technology|
|Grant No.||50 RA 1314|
Project SEAR (Small Exploration Assistant Rover) is about the development of an autonomous planetary rover with the same name, which could be used in an extraterrestrial mission scenario. The project was initiated in April 2013 when the German Aerospace Center (DLR) announced the “SpaceBot Cup 2013”. In this robotic competition, participants were to fulfill a wide range of tasks on a Mars-like surface. An unknown region, which was characterized by many obstacles, was to be explored and mapped. Two object were to be found and transported to another, third object. The main challenges hereby lay in the requirements to fulfill all tasks autonomously without radio controlled interference (except for checkpoints) and that all communication was altered to be typical for this kind of scenario. This resulted in a delayed communication line with reoccurring blackouts when no communication was possible.
In a very short development time of only about six months, a system was created during the summer semester 2013 and the following months. Nonetheless it was able to successfully participate in the SpaceBot Cup 2013. Many foundations were laid during this time, which are until today the basis of the robot. Its eight wheeled chassis allows the rover to overcome obstacles such as rubble, sand and slopes. A manipulator allows SEAR to grasp objects and place them in specifically designed transport containers for transport.
Team SEAR was able to re-gain support for the SpacBot Cup 2015 when it was announced in 2014. The “DLR SpaceBot Cup” is organized by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with aids from the “Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Technologie” and shall support the development of technological enhancements in the field of space robotics. Constraints for the new competition stayed the same as in 2013.
The rover was constantly advanced in preparations for the new cup and in the course of several lectures. The system's sensors were revised by using new cameras and its perception has been greatly extended by constructing a camera mast, on which up to eight cameras can be mounted. SEAR's software was steadily improved as well, overall leading to a much more stable and complex system in 2015.
This is also reflected in Team SEAR's success at the qualification for the SpaceBot Camp 2015 in September of the same year, as it was one of only three teams to pass the qualification. Overall, ten teams participated in the qualification process. The system once again achieved great results during the following performance presentation in November, during the “SpaceBot Camp 2015”. The actual contest was not held due to the small number of teams which were able to qualify for it besides SEAR.
The rover is still being enhanced. A new corpus and board electronics, which is based on satellite hardware, have been developed and are currently in the phase of integration. The team has also designed a new manipulator with extended capabilities which is now being produced.
The long term goal of the project is to develop a completely autonomous and space qualified rover for a perennial operation on a planet near Earth, creating a system which is able to autonomously fulfill a range of mission scenarios.