Project: Aberystwyth Experimental Planetary Rover

Technical details:Picture of Rover

Rover Chassis

The Aberystwyth experimental rover is a half-size ExoMars rover chassis. It is based upon the ESA ExoMars rover Concept-E mechanics. The rover has 6 wheel drive, 6 wheel steering, and a 6 wheel walking capability (3 DoF per wheel). The rover supports a panoramic camera instrument and a 3 DoF robot arm (both AU designed and built), in addition to onboard computing and communication facilities.


Using commercial off-the-shelf cameras we have created a panoramic camera instrument which emulates the proposed ExoMars PanCam. Our PanCam supports two Wide Angle Cameras (WACs) with a baseline separation of 500 mm, and a High Resolution Camera (HRC) mounted centrally. Image capture and machine vision processing algorithms have been implemented and these can run using the on-board computer or remotely. A pan and tilt mechanism attached to a mast structure on our rover chassis allows control over camera direction.

Grants and projects:

  • STFC, "Marco Polo - Near Earth Object Sample Return. Technology Readiness for Cosmic Vision", period 01/03/09 to 31/03/10. This proposal was submitted to STFC as part of the ESA Cosmic Vision AO, and involves the Open University, Oxford University, EADS Astrium Ltd., Aberystwyth University, Leicester University, RAL, and MSSL University College London. The Aberystwyth role involves autonomous robotic sample acquisition under micro-gravity conditions. Launch ? 2017, sample return ? 2022. Aberystwyth PI - DPB.
  • ESA, AO/1-5566/08/NL/EK, "Mars Surface Sample Transfer/Manipulation", period 01/11/08 to 31/10/10. The project consortium includes Astrium Satellites, RUAG, TraSyS, Selex Galileo, and Tecnomare. Aberystwyth has a consultant role along with Oxford Technologies, and the University of Leicester. Aberystwyth PI - DPB.
  • ESA, AO/1-5533/08/NL/EK, "Exploration Robotics Requirements and Concepts (X-ROB)", period 1/09/08 to 31/03/10. The project consortium includes Thales Alenia Space, EADS Astrium, Booz Allen & Hamilton, Galileo Avionica, AOES Medialab, NLR, SciSys, BAe Systems, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Reading University, Aberystwyth University, and Shadow Robotics. Aberystwyth is a technical consultant for the second phase of the project (commencing 2009) which involves bread boarding (BB) activities. Funding for Aberystwyth will be subject to the BBs selected by ESA upon completion of the project first phase. Aberystwyth PI - DPB.
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering: Daphne Jackson Fellowship, "Intelligent Martian Rock Detection and Segmentation in PanCam Images", period 01/09/08 to 31/08/10. This fellowship has been awarded to Dr. Changjing Shang. Supervisor - DPB.
  • EU FP7, "EuroPlanet Research Infrastructure", period 36. Europlanet RI involves 27 European partners. The Institute of Mathematics and Physics and the Department of Computer Science constitute the Aberystwyth team. The Computer Science component involves the use of the PATLab to create a Trans-National Mars Surface Simulation (MSS) Facility. Aberystwyth MSS Facility PI - DPB.
  • EU FP7, "PROVISG: Planetary Robotics Vision Ground Processing", period 36 months. PROVISG has a total of 12 European partners plus NASA JPL. Aberystwyth PI - DPB.
  • ESA, "ExoMars Phase B1 Rover Vehicle Instrument Deployment Arm", period 20/11/07 to 07/03/08. This work was in collaboration with EADS Astrium for ESA. PI - DPB.
  • ESA, "ExoMars Rover Operations Control Centre - Mars Terrain Simulator (MTS) - Phase B1 Study", period 17/09/07 to 17/12/07. The project consortium included DATASAT Europe, Studio Geo 3, and Georadar. Aberystwyth PI - DPB.
  • STFC, Grant No. ST/G003114/1, "Stereo Wide-Angle Cameras for the ExoMars Panoramic Camera Instrument". This involves a Part-A Grant for the period 01/09/08 to 31/03/10. This project is in collaboration with MSSL University College London, and the University of Leicester. Aberystwyth PI - DPB.
  • PPARC, Grant No. PP/D00666X/1, "Interplanetary Exploration Rover Technology Development", period 01/01/06 to 31/07/06. This project involved EADS Astrium, SciSys, Roke Manor Research, and the universities of Aberystwyth, Surrey, Cranfield, Leicester and Strathclyde. The total project award was £285,000. Aberystwyth PI - DPB.

Outreach Grants:

  • EPSRC STAGE Award, Grant No. EP/D05656X/1,"Walking with Robots". Period 01/09/06 to 31/12/09; EPSRC Partnerships for Public Engagement Award, Grant No. EP/D507286/1, "Robot Thought?!- Thinking about Robots", period 16/01/06 to 15/01/08. This and the EPSRC STAGE Award were led by UWE and have a number of academic partners and  institutions such as the London Science Museum, the National Space Centre, Techniquest  NEWI, and the Thinktank Science Museum. Co-I - DPB.
  • Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2008, "Exploring the Solar System: Mankind or Machine?", period 30/06/08 to 3/07/08. This project was in collaboration with the University of Leicester (John Bridges PI), UCL MSSL, and EADS Astrium Ltd. Co-I - DPB.

Related publications:

  • Mark Woods, Andy Shaw, Dave Barnes, Derek Long, Derek Pullan, Autonomous Science for an ExoMars-Like Mission, Journal of Field Robotics, Special Issue on Space Robotics, In Press, doi: 10.1002/rob.20289, (2009).
  • Honary, E., McQuade, F., Ward, R., Woodrow, I., Shaw, A., Barnes, D., Fyfe, M., Robotic experiments with cooperative aerobots and underwater swarms, Robotica, Vol. 27, pp. 37-49, doi: 10.1017/S0263574708004505,  (2009).
  • Laurence Tyler, Dave Barnes, An Instrument Deployment Arm Study for the ExoMars Rover Vehicle, European Planetary Science Congress, EPSC 2008, Munster, Germany. Vol. 3 EPSC2008-A-00531. (2008).
  • D. Barnes, M. Grande, L. Tyler, A, Cook, The Europlanet RI TransNational Access Planetary Analogue Terrain Laboratory (PATLab), European Planetary Science Congress EPSC 2008, Munster, Germany. Vol. 3 EPSC2008-A-00550. (2008).
  • Dave Barnes, Laurence Tyler, Surface Operation Requirements for the ExoMars Rover Vehicle Instrument Deployment Arm (IDA), 10th ESA Workshop on Advanced Space Technologies for Robotics and Automation, ASTRA 2008. ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands. On-line Proceedings. (2008).
  • Schmitz, N., Griffiths A., Barnes, D., Coates, A., Hauber, E., Jaumann, R., Michaelis, H., Trauthan, F., and the AMASE 08 Crew, ExoMars PanCam Field Test Report from the Arctic Mars Analogue Svalbard Expedition (AMASE) 2008, ASTRA 2008. ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands. On-line Proceedings. (2008).
  • Cook, A.C., Barnes D.P., Terrain Mapping Coverage Around a Lander Using Passive Structured Light, Lunar and Planetary Science XXXIX, 2466.pdf, (2008).
  • Paar, G., Oberst, J., Barnes, D.P., Griffiths, A.D., Jaumann, R., Coates, A.J., Muller, J.-P., Gao, Y., Li, R. ExoMars Panoramic Camera 3D Vision: Expected Quality of Rover Surroundings Description, Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 10, SRef-ID: 1607-7962/gra/EGU2008-A-07337, European Geosciences Union, Vienna, Austria, 13-18 April (2008).
  • Griffiths, A., Coates, A., Muller, J., Storrie-Lombardi, M., Jaumann, R., Josset, J., Paar, G., Barnes, D., Enhancing the Effectiveness of the ExoMars PanCam Instrument for Astrobiology, Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 10, SRef-ID: 1607-7962/gra/EGU2008-A-07337, European Geosciences Union, Vienna, Austria, 13-18 April (2008).
  • Woods, M., Shaw, A., Honary, E., Barnes, D., Long, D., Pullan, D., CREST Autonomous Robotic Scientist: Developing a Closed-Loop Science Capability for European Mars Missions, 9th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space (i-SAIRAS), LA CA USA. CD-ROM Proceedings. (2008).
  • Woods, M., Evans, M., Ward, R., Shaw, S., Barnes, D., Summers, P., Pullan, D., Image Based Localisation and Autonomous Image Assessment for a Martian Aerobot, 9th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space (i-SAIRAS), LA CA USA. CD-ROM Proceedings. (2008).
  • Barnes, D., Shaw, A., Summers, P., Woods, M., Ward, R., Evans, M., Paar, G., Sims, M., Autonomous Imaged Based Localisation for a Martian Balloon, Revue Française