Testing a vehicle meant to traverse the harsh conditions of another world is pretty difficult here on Earth, but when it comes to putting potential Mars robots through their paces, a dry riverbed in Utah is a pretty decent proving ground. A team of scientists recently gave a pair of cooperative bots a chance to strut their stuff in the desert, and just to make the entire scenario even more accurate, they controlled the bots from a different continent.
Germany’s Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, funded by the German Space Agency, tested the TransTerrA robotics system, which consists of a large, four-legged bot called SherpaTT and a smaller “micro rover” called the Coyote III. The two bots work in tandem to map the environment as well as explore. The larger robot is equipped with a long arm that allows it to interact with the environment.
Both bots have their own unique jobs to fulfill during the excursion. The Coyote III is much more adapt at exploration, with unique wheels that allow it to grab and pull itself up over rocks and otherwise hazardous terrain. Meanwhile, the SherpaTT does its part by setting up a base camp, which functions as a communications point.
The researchers conducting the extensive, four-week long test controlled both bots remotely from a control station in Bremen Germany, which is over 5,000 miles away. Of course, the communication challenges will be considerably greater between Germany and Mars, but you have to give the team credit for trying to achieve authenticity.