Martin Schuster, senior researcher and team leader at DLR-RM, receives the Helmholtz Doctoral Prize 2020 in the research field aeronautics, space, and transport for his outstanding PhD thesis on “Collaborative Localization and Mapping for Autonomous Planetary Exploration: Distributed Stereo Vision-Based 6D SLAM in GNSS-Denied Environments”. In his thesis, he developed methods for the collaborative localization and environment modeling for heterogeneous teams of autonomous robots to explore extraterrestrial planets and moons. He combines distributed local and decentralized global estimation for the computation and exchange of pose estimates and the modeling of the 3D geometry of the robots’ environment while taking into account the uncertainty of noisy data from space-suitable types of sensor, such as stereo camera systems. Martin Schuster was supervised by Prof. Michael Beetz of the University of Bremen, head of the Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IAI), and Rudolph Triebel, head of the Department of Perception and Cognition at DLR-RM.
In the context of the ROBEX and ARCHES projects, Martin Schuster evaluated and demonstrated his methods on several different robot systems in Mars- and Moon-like environments in front of an international expert audience, including a multi-week field campaign at a Moon-analogue site on the volcano Mt. Etna. Since 2018, he leads the team Planetary Exploration Operations and works on the transfer of his methods for environment modeling from basic research to real space missions (MMX: navigation of a rover on the Martian moon Phobos) as well as to terrestrial application fields (AHEAD: assisted teleoperation for humanitarian help transports).
Each year, the Helmholtz Association awards one outstanding PhD thesis in each of the six Helmholtz research areas with a doctoral prize, which honors academic achievements and serves as an incentive to remain in academia. With this, the Helmholtz Association aims to support talented researchers at an early stage of their career and wants to encourage them to continue working in research. For the second time within three years, this renowned prize goes to the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, last time to Daniel Leidner in 2018.