SERVO 02.2014 19
RABBIT ROVER HOPS INTO ACTION
The last rover to be operational on the Moon was the Soviet
Union's Lunokhod 2 in January 1973. Since then, we humans have
focused most of our robotic exploration efforts on more, well,
exotic locations like Venus and Mars. This should by no means be
taken to imply that we know everything there is to know about
the Moon, or that it's all boring and no fun up there.
At 8: 11 a.m. EST on December 14, 2013, China's "Jade
Rabbit" or ("Yutu") rover made a soft touchdown on the Moon,
aboard the Chang'e 3 lander. The rover deployed about seven
China's rover is slightly smaller than Opportunity (which is
still driving around on Mars), and has a mass of about 120 kilos,
with 20 kilos of payload. That payload consists of stereo
panoramic cameras, spectrometers, and ground-penetrating radar. It has
some autonomous navigation capability, and may be able to send live video
back to Earth — which would be pretty cool.
In 2015, China plans to send a second rover to the Moon. After that,
they'll try and get a robotic drilling rig to dig up a sample and send it back
Prospero, the robot farmer from Dorhout R&D, is
the working prototype of an Autonomous Micro Planter
(AMP) that uses a combination of swarm and game
theory, and is the first of four steps. It is meant to be
deployed as a group or "swarm." The other three steps
involve autonomous robots that tend the crops, harvest
them, and finally one robot that can plant, tend, and
harvest — autonomously transitioning from one phase
With an ever-increasing need to feed the world’s
hungry, the agricultural sector has been a boon to the field of robotics as an early adaptor of technology.
Prospero is controlled with a Parallax Propeller chip mounted on Propeller proto board. Its body is designed by
Lynxmotion and the original programming allows it to walk autonomously in any direction while avoiding objects
without turning its body with its dual ultrasonic Ping))).
An under body sensor array allows the robot to know if a seed has been planted in the area at the optimal
spacing and depth. Prospero can then dig a hole, plant a seed in the hole, cover the seed with soil, and apply any pre-emergence fertilizers and/or herbicides along with the marking agent. Prospero can then talk to other robots in the
immediate proximity that it needs help planting in that area or that this area has been planted and to move on via IR
(currently represented with a green and red LED ).
The more seeds it plants, the more the "green" LED lights up, and the more it draws other robots nearby (+ 2).
The more it detects planted seeds, the more it repulses other robots with the "red" LED (-1).