Tech Briefs

Autonomous Instrument Placement (AutoPlace) is onboard software that enables a Mars Exploration Rover to act autonomously in using its manipulator to place scientific instruments on or near designated rock and soil targets. Prior to the development of AutoPlace, it was necessary for human operators on Earth to plan every motion of the manipulator arm in a time-consuming process that included downlinking of images from the rover, analysis of images and creation of commands, and uplinking of commands to the rover. AutoPlace incorporates image analysis and planning algorithms into the onboard rover software, eliminating the need for the downlink/uplink command cycle. Many of these algorithms are derived from the existing ground-based image analysis and planning algorithms, with modifications and augmentations for onboard use.

AutoPlace also utilizes pre-existing onboard arm control, arm collision-detection, and stereoscopic image processing software. In addition, to satisfy needs specific to the Mars Exploration Rovers and to increase safety, AutoPlace incorporates a volumetric terrain visibility analysis algorithm, a uniform target selection algorithm, and a template-based trajectory generation algorithm that were not parts of the prior onboard or ground software.

This program was written by P. Chris Leger and Mark Maimone of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-44820.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Autonomous Instrument Placement for Mars Exploration Rovers (reference NPO-44820) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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