Imaging and localisation software demonstrator for planetary aerobots

David Preston Barnes, Andy Shaw, Phil Summers, Roger Ward, Mark Woods, Malcolm Evans, Gerhard Paar, Mark Sims

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2 Citations (SciVal)
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Aerobot technology is generating a good deal of interest in planetary exploration circles. Balloon based aerobots have much to offer ESA's Aurora programme, e.g. high resolution mapping, landing site selection, rover guidance, data relay, sample site selection, payload delivery, and atmospheric measurement. Aerobots could be used in a variety of configurations from uncontrolled free-flying to tethered rover operation, and are able to perform a range of important tasks which other exploration vehicles cannot. In many ways they provide a missing ‘piece’ of the exploration ‘jigsaw’, acting as a bridge between the capabilities of in situ rovers and non-contact orbiters. Technically, a lighter than air (LTA) aerobot concept is attractive because it is low risk, low-cost, efficient, and much less complex than heavier than air (HTA) vehicles such as fixed wing gliders, and crucially, much of the required technology ‘building blocks’ currently exist. Smart imaging and localisation is a key enabling technology for remote aerobots. Given the current lack of comprehensive localisation and communication systems, it is important that aerobots are equipped with the ability to determine their location, with respect to a planet's surface, to a suitable accuracy and in a self-sufficient way. The availability of a variety of terrain feature extraction, point tracking, and image compression algorithms means that such a self-reliant system is now achievable. We are currently developing a demonstrator imaging and localisation package (ILP) for a Martian balloon. This ILP system will incorporate a unique combination of image based relative and absolute localisation techniques. We propose to demonstrate our ILP using both simulation and a real laboratory based model aerobot. The availability of both simulated and real aerobot data will provide a comprehensive test and evaluation framework for the ILP functionality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1062-1070
Number of pages9
JournalActa Astronautica
Issue number8-11
Early online date21 Sept 2005
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2006


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