Reconfigurable Integrated Multirobot Exploration System (RIMRES): Heterogeneous Modular Reconfigurable Robots for Space Exploration

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Abstract

This paper presents the multirobot team RIMRES (Reconfigurable Integrated Multirobot Exploration System), which is comprised of a wheeled rover, a legged scout, and several immobile payload items. The heterogeneous systems are employed to demonstrate the feasibility of reconfigurable and modular systems for lunar polar crater exploration missions. All systems have been designed with a common electromechanical interface, allowing to tightly interconnect all these systems to a single system and also to form new electromechanical units. With the different strengths of the respective subsystems, a robust and flexible overall multirobot system is built up to tackle the, to some extent, contradictory requirements for an exploration mission in a crater environment. In RIMRES, the capability for reconfiguration is explicitly taken into account in the design phase of the system, leading to a high degree of flexibility for restructuring the overall multirobot system. To enable the systems' capabilities, the same distributed control software architecture is applied to rover, scout, and payload items, allowing for semiautonomous cooperative actions as well as full manual control by a mission operator. For validation purposes, the authors present the results of two critical parts of the aspired mission, the deployment of a payload and the autonomous docking procedure between the legged scout robot and the wheeled rover. This allows us to illustrate the feasibility of complex, cooperative, and autonomous reconfiguration maneuvers with the developed reconfigurable team of robots.

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