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Autonomous Vision-Based Tethered-Assisted Rover DockingMany intriguing science discoveries on planetary surfaces, such as the seasonal flows on crater walls and skylight entrances to lava tubes, are at sites that are currently inaccessible to state-of-the-art rovers. The in situ exploration of such sites is likely to require a tethered platform both for mechanical support and for providing power and communication. Mother/daughter architectures have been investigated where a mother deploys a tethered daughter into extreme terrains. Deploying and retracting a tethered daughter requires undocking and re-docking of the daughter to the mother, with the latter being the challenging part. In this paper, we describe a vision-based tether-assisted algorithm for the autonomous re-docking of a daughter to its mother following an extreme terrain excursion. The algorithm uses fiducials mounted on the mother to improve the reliability and accuracy of estimating the pose of the mother relative to the daughter. The tether that is anchored by the mother helps the docking process and increases the system's tolerance to pose uncertainties by mechanically aligning the mating parts in the final docking phase. A preliminary version of the algorithm was developed and field-tested on the Axel rover in the JPL Mars Yard. The algorithm achieved an 80% success rate in 40 experiments in both firm and loose soils and starting from up to 6 m away at up to 40 deg radial angle and 20 deg relative heading. The algorithm does not rely on an initial estimate of the relative pose. The preliminary results are promising and help retire the risk associated with the autonomous docking process enabling consideration in future martian and lunar missions.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
External Source(s)
Tsai, Dorian
(Aalto Univ Aalto, Finland)
Nesnas, Issa A.D.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Zarzhitsky, Dimitri
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
May 11, 2015
Publication Date
November 3, 2013
Subject Category
Cybernetics, Artificial Intelligence And Robotics
Meeting Information
Meeting: IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems
Location: Tokyo
Country: Japan
Start Date: November 3, 2013
End Date: November 8, 2013
Sponsors: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Distribution Limits
Axel docking
Newton Crater
extreme terrain rovers
Vision-based docking

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