Research: Coverage Planning

Kimberly Shillcutt

My work is part of the autonomy group's research. I am developing two primary software modules for Nomad. The navigation planner is a module for generating various path plans for Nomad to follow. Currently, this module can generate 3 types of paths: a basically straight line path from one point to another, a "farming" path which covers an area with straight rows in a back and forth pattern, and a spiral path which covers an area with an expanding spiral-like pattern. This module will be tested in Antarctica this season (Nov - Dec 1998).

An overhead view of samples of these patterns is shown here, as generated by a simulator. The red line shows the path of the robot itself, while the green shading indicates the extent of coverage by the sensors mounted on the robot.

Actual Differential GPS ground tracks of Nomad following the farming and spiral patterns are shown here, from testing at the slag heaps in Pittsburgh. The images shown here are the best patterns generated to date. Click on the images to see a time series of tests that gradually improved the robot's ability to follow the given patterns.
 
Farming pattern Spiral pattern
The second primary software module is the mission planner. This module has not been fully developed yet, and will not be tested this season. The purpose of this module is to evaluate various plans and decide which one the robot should utilize. These plans can include the coverage patterns generated by the navigation planner as well as side trips to investigate objects more closely with various sensors, such as examining a potential meteorite with a spectrometer. The mission planner will take cost estimates from the navigation planner and a sensor manager, and evaluate the costs and benefits of various plans and combinations of plans, picking the best one, based on the goals and constraints of the current mission. Some of these goals and constraints might be complete coverage of an area, certainty of meteorite detection, generation of solar power, and conservation of power needed for locomotion.

Find out about the navigation planner experiment in the current Antarctic expedition.

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Robotic Search for Antarctic Meteorites 1998
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