Multisensor Navigation

Towards a Swarm Navigation System on Mars - Ranging System Hardware Development and Integration


The search for extra-terrestrial life is among the most fascinating research topics in astronautics. Many researchers hope to find extra-terrestrial life on our neighbor planet Mars. Until now, this search is accomplished via individual, partly autonomous rovers. To control the rovers, a communications link is established. However, it takes several minutes for the radio signals to travel from Earth to Mars. Thus, the remote control of the rovers is very cumbersome. Therefore, our vision is that future Mars exploration missions work autonomously even in environments that are difficult to access such as mountains or canyons. To increase the reliability, availability, speed, and range of these missions, we propose the operation of autonomous robotic swarms. A key technology for robotic swarms is swarm navigation: Swarm elements shall not collide with each other nor drift apart from each other.

Goal of work

Within the “Valles Marineris Explorer” Project our goal is to develop a decentralized cooperative and autonomous swarm navigation system. This system shall provide excellent navigation accuracy through signal round-trip-delay (RTD) measurements between the swarm elements, communicate the navigation data, and detect “hidden” rovers. With respect to these points, we need to design, integrate, assemble and test the transceivers for the RTD measurements.

Key tasks

  •  RTD test-bed for cooperative positioning
    zum Bild RTD test-bed for cooperative positioning
    Review and understand the literature on the RTD test-bed for cooperative positioning such as Staudinger, E.; Sand, S., "Generic real-time round-trip-delay test-bed for cooperative positioning," in Proc. of 9th Workshop on Positioning Navigation and Communication (WPNC), 2012, vol., no., pp.94,99, 15-16 March 2012 Interoperability framework development and implementation. FP7-ICT-2009-4 WHERE2 Deliverable D4.3, pp. 23-26, Jan. 2013, Deliverable-D4.3.pdf
  • Design and develop
    • Power supply PCB for FPGA board and RF components allowing battery and AC power supply
    • Control and switch of transceiver modes: Active transmitting and receiving master, passive listening slave, or active mirroring slave node
    • Casing of hardware components suitable for mounting on UGV
  • Integrate hardware and assemble system including FPGA board, RF components, antennas, and casing
  • Test assembled system
  • Document methodologies and results in report


  • Studies in electrical, robotics, cybernetics, or communications engineering
  • Knowledge about hardware design, development, and integration, in particular for PCB, required
  • Knowledge about communication and navigation systems of advantage

Further details about Valles Marineris Explorer:

Dr. Stephan Sand
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)

Institut für Kommunikation und Navigation
, Nachrichtensysteme
Tel: +49 8153 28-1464

Fax: +49 8153 28-1871

URL dieses Artikels