ARCH­ES – robots ex­plore a 'quasi-Moon' on Mount Et­na

DLR's LRU2 robot during the ARCHES space simulation on Mount Etna
DLR's LRU2 robot dur­ing the ARCH­ES space sim­u­la­tion on Mount Et­na
Image 1/5, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

DLR's LRU2 robot during the ARCHES space simulation on Mount Etna

The Lightweight Rover Unit 2 (LRU) dur­ing a very un­usu­al out­door test on Mount Et­na. In or­der to test mis­sion sce­nar­ios for robot­ic ex­plo­ration on Earth be­fore go­ing to the Moon or Mars, sci­en­tists have been look­ing for places on Earth that come close to the con­di­tions on an­oth­er ce­les­tial body. From 13 June to 9 Ju­ly 2022, Mount Et­na on the Ital­ian is­land of Sici­ly will be­come a 'quasi-Moon', as the vol­canic land­scape with its gran­u­lar sur­face and so­lid­i­fied la­va lay­ers re­sem­bles the ge­o­log­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the Moon. ARCH­ES stands for 'Au­tonomous Robot­ic Net­works to Help Mod­ern So­ci­eties'. Re­searchers use Et­na's harsh en­vi­ron­ment as a 'lu­nar ana­logue'. Sev­er­al rovers, a lan­der and a drone work to­geth­er, ex­plor­ing their sur­round­ings and per­form­ing tasks.
RODIN lander and LRU1 robot on Mount Etna
RODIN lan­der and LRU1 robot on Mount Et­na
Image 2/5, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

RODIN lander and LRU1 robot on Mount Etna

LRU1 (Lightweight Rover Unit) and the lan­der RODIN dur­ing the ARCH­ES space-ana­logue demon­stra­tion mis­sion on Mount Et­na. In or­der to test mis­sion sce­nar­ios for robot­ic ex­plo­ration on Earth be­fore go­ing to the Moon or Mars, sci­en­tists have been look­ing for places on Earth that come close to the con­di­tions on an­oth­er ce­les­tial body. From 13 June to 9 Ju­ly 2022, Mount Et­na on the Ital­ian is­land of Sici­ly will be­come a 'quasi-Moon', as the vol­canic land­scape with its gran­u­lar sur­face and so­lid­i­fied la­va lay­ers re­sem­bles the ge­o­log­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the Moon. ARCH­ES stands for 'Au­tonomous Robot­ic Net­works to Help Mod­ern So­ci­eties'. Re­searchers use Et­na's harsh en­vi­ron­ment as a 'lu­nar ana­logue'. Sev­er­al rovers, a lan­der and a drone work to­geth­er, ex­plor­ing their sur­round­ings and per­form­ing tasks.
Scout rover on Mount Etna
Scout rover on Mount Et­na
Image 3/5, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Scout rover on Mount Etna

DLR's Scout rover has a WiFi re­peater, en­sur­ing that there is a sta­ble in­ter­net con­nec­tion be­tween ESA's In­ter­act rover and the 'con­trol room'.
 Interact rover on Mount Etna
In­ter­act rover on Mount Et­na
Image 4/5, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Interact rover on Mount Etna

ESA's In­ter­act rover dur­ing the space de­mo mis­sion on Mount Et­na. In or­der to test mis­sion sce­nar­ios for robot­ic ex­plo­ration on Earth be­fore go­ing to the Moon or Mars, sci­en­tists have been look­ing for places on Earth that come close to the con­di­tions on an­oth­er ce­les­tial body. From 13 June to 9 Ju­ly 2022, Mount Et­na on the Ital­ian is­land of Sici­ly will be­come a 'quasi-Moon', as the vol­canic land­scape with its gran­u­lar sur­face and so­lid­i­fied la­va lay­ers re­sem­bles the ge­o­log­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the Moon. ARCH­ES stands for 'Au­tonomous Robot­ic Net­works to Help Mod­ern So­ci­eties'. Re­searchers use Et­na's harsh en­vi­ron­ment as a 'lu­nar ana­logue'. Sev­er­al rovers, a lan­der and a drone work to­geth­er, ex­plor­ing their sur­round­ings and per­form­ing tasks.
ARCHES (Autonomous Robotic Networks to Help Modern Societies)
ARCH­ES (Au­tonomous Robot­ic Net­works to Help Mod­ern So­ci­eties)
Image 5/5, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

ARCHES (Autonomous Robotic Networks to Help Modern Societies)

By work­ing to­geth­er, het­ero­ge­neous teams of robots can ac­com­plish tasks such as ex­plor­ing in­ac­ces­si­ble en­vi­ron­ments and oth­er plan­ets. The robots can be used to reach or see places that hu­mans alone can­not.

Autonomous robotic networks – creating the technical basis for these is the goal of the Helmholtz Autonomous Robotic Networks to Help Modern Societies (ARCHES) project, in which the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is participating. The focus is on environmental monitoring of the oceans, exploration of the Solar System and crisis intervention in places where it would be too dangerous for humans to work. This may be the case, for example, in the dismantling of nuclear power plants or in the inspection of damaged buildings after a disaster.

Other possible areas of application can be found wherever direct intervention of the robots as an extension of a human would make sense. Collaborative mobile robotic systems will prove ideal for autonomous road and rail traffic, especially in the planning of demand-based public transport in inner-city areas or making deliveries to shops. In addition, networked robotic assistants can provide valuable services in the medical or therapeutic care of older people or persons with restricted mobility.

What must autonomous mobile robots be able to do?

All of the aforementioned areas of application place the highest demands on robustness and reliability. Both on the ground and in the air – whether as a rover or a drone – mobile robotic systems must be able to comprehend their surroundings over a large area as precisely as possible and find suitable routes on that basis. In doing so, they also have to ensure that their energy supply is adequate. Another requirement is that they have to be able to manipulate objects, which means collecting samples and examining them on site. Finally, they have to be able to exchange the data they have acquired with one another and communicate with the mission control centre. The ARCHES project tests all of this in two scenarios. From 13 June to 9 July 2022, the first demonstration mission on the topic of 'Space' will be carried out on the Sicilian volcano Etna, in an environment that resembles the surface of the Moon in terms of soil composition.

DLR and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are working together on the space-analogue mission as part of the ARCHES project. The European Space Agency (ESA) is also a partner in this project. DLR is also involved in the second part of the project, a deep-sea-analogue mission, directed by the Helmholtz centres for Polar and Marine Research (Alfred Wegener Institute, AWI) and for Ocean Research (GEOMAR). Their findings will be communicated to all partners, with plans to make them usable independently of the respective deployment scenarios. This applies both to the hardware and the joint analysis and interpretation of data by the network’s robots and their interaction with humans.

DLR institutes and facilities involved in ARCHES

Institute of Robotics and MechatronicsCoordination; lander, ARDEA drone, LRU rover
Institute of System Dynamics and ControlScout Rover
Institute of Communications and NavigationLOFAR experiment
Institute of Optical Sensor SystemsLIBS experiment
Space Operations and Astronaut Training, Mobile Rocket Base (MORABA)Data link between the DLR robots and the control centre
Institute of Planetary ResearchScience Advisor

Link to the live broadcast of the ARCHES demo mission on Etna from the DLR stand at the ILA Berlin Air Show 2022 on Saturday 25 June at 12:30 CEST.

More information
Contact
  • Michael Müller
    Ed­i­tor
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3717
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249

    Contact
  • Lioba Suchenwirth
    Pub­lic Re­la­tions
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Robotics and Mecha­tron­ics
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Oberpfaffenhofen-Weßling
    Contact
  • Armin Wedler
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Robotics and Mecha­tron­ics
    Mecha­tron­ic Sys­tems
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Oberpfaffenhofen-Weßling
    Contact

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