AUTOAPPROACH is a computer program that enables a mobile robot to approach a target autonomously, starting from a distance of as much as 10 m, in response to a single command. AUTOAPPROACH is used in conjunction with (1) software that analyzes images acquired by stereoscopic cameras aboard the robot and (2) navigation and path-planning software that utilizes odometer readings along with the output of the image-analysis software.

Intended originally for application to an instrumented, wheeled robot (rover) in scientific exploration of Mars, AUTOAPPROACH could be adapted to terrestrial applications, notably including the robotic removal of land mines and other unexploded ordnance. A human operator generates the approach command by selecting the target in images acquired by the robot cameras. The approach path consists of multiple legs. Feature points are derived from images that contain the target and are thereafter tracked to correct odometric errors and iteratively refine estimates of the position and orientation of the robot relative to the target on successive legs. The approach is terminated when the robot attains the position and orientation required for placing a scientific instrument at the target. The workspace of the robot arm is then autonomously checked for self/terrain collisions prior to the deployment of the scientific instrument onto the target.

This program was written by Terrance Huntsberger and Yang Cheng of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Software category. This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Don Hart of the California Institute of Technology at (818) 393-3425. Refer to NPO-30529

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Single-Command Approach and Instrument Placement by a Robot on a Target

(reference NPO-30529) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

Don't have an account? Sign up here.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2005 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.