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Hyperion was the NASA Space Telerobotics Cool Robot of the week, July 2, 2001

NASA Press Release June 25, 2001

Carnegie Mellon Press Release June 25, 2001

Carnegie Mellon Press Release July 31, 2001

Carnegie Mellon's Solar Powered Robot Demonstrates Concept That Could Lead to Long-Term Exploration of Planets and Moons

A prototype, solar-powered robot, developed with support from NASA by
researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, has
demonstrated a concept that could pave the way for future long-term
robotic exploration of distant planets and moons. The robot, named
Hyperion, successfully completed field experiments on Devon Island in
the Canadian Arctic. It tested the concept of Sun-Synchronous
Navigation, a technique that involves tracking the sun while exploring
terrain. Hyperion performed navigation experiments during a period of
24-hour sunlight, exploring the terrain it encountered while
simultaneously monitoring its solar panels to ensure that it collects
enough energy to complete each segment of it's planned traverse.
-- During the initial experiment on July 19, Hyperion traveled 6.1
kilometers and made history by circumnavigating the Von Braun Planitia,
an area near Devon Island's Haughton Crater that is considered to be
analogous to the terrain on Mars. According to project manager David
Wettergreen, a Robotics Institute research scientist, about 95 percent
of the circuit was completed autonomously with the remainder under
remote supervision. The experiment began and ended with the robot's
batteries charged and ready to continue operation. As it encountered the
unknown terrain, Hyperion at times fell behind its scheduled plan, but
each time it caught up when it emerged in a more easily navigable
region. "The ability of the robot's perception and navigation systems to
find routes was very impressive," said Wettergreen. "Analysis of
telemetry recorded from Hyperion will reveal the thousands of obstacles
Hyperion detected and evaluated, the tens of thousands of steering
corrections, and the statistics of planned versus actual navigated
distance and power. Qualitatively, Hyperion wiggled through some pretty
tight spots."

-- In the extended experiment, which ended July 22, Hyperion covered
greater distance, 9.1km, traversed rougher terrain including scree
slopes and mud flats, and was challenged with a mission plan that at
times put desired goal locations in conflict with the position of the
sun. Wettergreen said that the extended experiment, by design, pushed
the limits of Hyperion's capability to find where further research was
necessary. In this experiment Hyperion had greater difficulty due to
communication drop-outs, areas of extremely rugged terrain, and dazzling
of its stereo cameras by the sun but in the end it arrived at its final
destination on schedule with charged batteries. One instance of manual
intervention was required to correct a steering problem. There is more
work to do to move new technologies from research into development but
the fundamental ideas have been proven.

-- Wettergreen and six colleagues, including graduate students and RI
engineers left for Devon Island on July 3. They began building up toward
the final experiments July 10, contending with bad weather and more snow
than they had expected during this time of years. They had a narrow
window of time to complete their work after the snow has melted in
mid-July and before the sun begins to drop below the hills toward the
end of the month.

-- "The technology is a grand leap for planetary exploration," said
William "Red" Whittaker, the Fredkin research professor in the Robotics
Institute and principal investigator of the Hyperion project.
Wettergreen emphasized that Hyperion is a concept vehicle designed to
operate only on earth. The objective is to develop technologies, like
reasoning about terrain, sunlight and power, that are broadly applicable
to robotic explorers and specifically necessary for robots that would
operate at the poles of the moon or in the polar regions of Mars.
-- For more detailed information about Hyperion, see

  ©2001 Carnegie Mellon University - Robotics Institute