Mission Reliability Estimation for Repairable Robot Teams

An analytical model demonstrates autonomous and intelligent control systems capable of operating distributed, multi-planetary surface vehicles for scouting or construction.

A mission reliability estimation method has been designed to translate mission requirements into choices of robot modules in order to configure a multi-robot team to have high reliability at minimal cost. In order to build cost- effective robot teams for long-term missions, one must be able to compare alternative design paradigms in a principled way by comparing the reliability of different robot models and robot team configurations. Core modules have been created including: a probabilistic module with reliability-cost characteristics, a method for combining the characteristics of multiple modules to determine an overall reliability-cost characteristic, and a method for the generation of legitimate module combinations based on mission specifications and the selection of the best of the resulting combinations from a cost-reliability standpoint.

The developed methodology can be used to predict the probability of a mission being completed, given information about the components used to build the robots, as well as information about the mission tasks. In the research for this innovation, sample robot missions were examined and compared to the performance of robot teams with different numbers of robots and different numbers of spare components.

Data that a mission designer would need was factored in, such as whether it would be better to have a spare robot versus an equivalent number of spare parts, or if mission cost can be reduced while maintaining reliability using spares.

This analytical model was applied to an example robot mission, examining the cost-reliability tradeoffs among different team configurations. Particularly scrutinized were teams using either redundancy (spare robots) or repairability (spare components). Using conservative estimates of the cost-reliability relationship, results show that it is possible to significantly reduce the cost of a robotic mission by using cheaper, lower-reliability components and providing spares. This suggests that the current design paradigm of building a minimal number of highly robust robots may not be the best way to design robots for extended missions.

This work was done by Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu of Caltech and John Dolan and Stephen Stancliff of Carnegie Mellon University for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Information Sciences category.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-44825.

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