Automated Obstacle Mapping and Navigability Analysis for Rover Mission Planning

Goodsell, T., Snorrason, M., Ruda, H., and Ablavsky, V.

Proceedings of SPIE, Volume 4364, Aerosense, Orlando, FL (April 2001)

One of NASA’s goals for the Mars Rover missions of 2003 and 2005 is to have a distributed team of mission scientists. Since these scientists are not experts on rover mobility, we have developed the Rover Obstacle Visualizer and Navigability Expert (ROVANE). ROVANE is a combined obstacle detection and path planning software suite, to assist in distributed mission planning. ROVANE uses terrain data, in the form of panoramic stereo images captured by the rover, to detect obstacles in the rover’s vicinity. These obstacles are combined into a traversability map which is used to provide path planning assistance for mission scientists. A corresponding visual representation is also generated, allowing human operators to easily identify hazardous regions and to understand ROVANE’s path selection. Since the terrain data often contains uncertain regions, the ROVANE obstacle detector generates a probability distribution describing the likely cost of a given obstacle or region. ROVANE then allows the user to plan for best-, worst-, and intermediate-case scenarios. ROVANE thus allows non-experts to examine scenarios and plan missions which have a high probability of success. ROVANE is capable of stand-alone operation, but it is designed to work with JPL’s Web Interface for Telescience, an Internet-based tool for collaborative command sequence generation.

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