Increasing the Performance of Autonomous Planetary Robots Through Environmental Manipulations

Period of Performance: 06/10/2016 - 06/09/2017


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

ProtoInnovations, LLC
5453 Albemarle Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
Firm POC
Principal Investigator

Research Institution

Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Institution POC


ProtoInnovations, LLC and Carnegie Mellon University propose to research, design, develop, and test software tools and hardware that will greatly increase the performance of planetary robots by manipulating the environment around them. We are specifically interested in developing new planning algorithms and non-prehensile manipulation techniques and simple robotic tools that will allow rovers to alter the environment around them for the purposes of creating feasible navigation routes, accessing interesting scientific targets, or doing some basic terraforming. A robot could be endowed with dedicated hardware to enable this terrain manipulation. Six or seven degree-of-freedom manipulator arms are commonly used for moving objects around a robot's environment. However adding such specialized, high torque, environmentally-toughened hardware adds significant costs in terms of fabrication, flight weight, and power requirements. Instead, in this proposal we will take advantage of the existing affordances of the platform in order to rearrange the terrain with no, or little, added hardware.