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Keywords:

  • robotic vehicle;
  • solar irradiance;
  • albedo;
  • over-snow mobility;
  • rolling resistance

Abstract

Sensors mounted on mobile robots could serve a variety of science missions in Antarctica. Although weather conditions can be harsh, Antarctic snowfields offer unique conditions to facilitate long-distance robot deployment: the absence of obstacles, firm snow with high albedo, and 24 h sunlight during the summer. We have developed a four-wheel-drive, solar-powered rover that capitalizes on these advantages. Analyses and field measurements confirm that solar power reflected from Antarctic snow contributes 30–40% of the power available to a robot consisting of a five-side box of solar panels. Mobility analyses indicate that the 80 kg rover can move at 0·8 m s−1 during clear sky conditions on firm snow into a 5 m s−1 headwind, twice the speed needed to achieve the design target of 500 km in 2 weeks. Local winter tests of the chassis demonstrated good grade-climbing ability and lower than predicted rolling resistance. Tests of the completed robot occurred in Greenland in 2005. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.