Sometime in July, with support from NASA, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute plan to demonstrate a prototype, autonomous solar-powered robot called Hyperion, which has the potential to be self-sufficient for extended periods of time. While Solar-powered robots are not new, but this concept may enable them to obtain continuous solar power for long-term exploration of distant planets and moons.
In July, the robot will be taken to Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic, where it will test a concept called sun-synchronous navigation, which involves tracking the sun for power while exploring terrain.
Using this type of navigation, the robot, which will travel opposite to Earth's rotation and in synchrony with the sun, must reason about its position and orientation with respect to the sun while exploring its surroundings. It must also navigate to capture enough sunlight to power itself while traveling and trying to reach important scientific objectives.
Several weeks of experiments will be conducted to measure the robot's performance, test computer algorithms and build up to integrated experiments that will take place over 24-hour periods of continuous sunlight. Carnegie Mellon's research team will validate the parameters that will allow sun-synchronous explorers to be developed for other planets. For some missions, by following the dawn, these rovers may also be able to regulate their temperatures by staying in the transition region between frigid night and scorching daytime temperatures.