ProtoInnovations, LLC proposes to research, design, develop, test, and validate an intelligent, robotic, lunar wheel (IRLW) with integrated sensing and perception subsystems to improve or enable robust mobility in planetary environments with priority on the Moon. The IRLW would aid rovers on the Moon during the Moon to Mars Campaign through in-wheel slip estimation, embedding estimation, and entrapment detection capabilities that would inform essential mobility risk assessment and mitigation systems. The IRLW uses improved slip estimation, embedding estimation, and entrapment detection algorithms and methods, which allow for the perception of mobility risk when moving on any terrain and especially on challenging and extreme terrains. Beyond the innovative algorithms incorporated in the IRLW, the motivation for the integration of risk assessment and mitigation systems into a wheel is two-fold: First, offloading risk assessment capabilities to an intelligent robotic wheel would allow a rover to allocate more of the main computing power for high-level mission objectives while simultaneously improving the reaction time to potential mobility issues. Second, the self-contained IRLW would allow the rover design process to be more modular which extends the rover design space and promotes the IRLW design to be used for multiple space missions on multiple platforms.
The IRLW can be used to enhance the mobility of any NASA mission with wheeled autonomous systems. The Moon to Mars Exploration Campaign will require rovers and wheeled robotic systems on the Moon for site preparation, scientific exploration, general construction, and ISRU, all of which can benefit from improved mobility risk assessment, reduction, and avoidance capabilities enabled with the IRLW. Beyond Mars the IRLW could be adapted and tweaked for Mars and other planetary missions.
The IRLW can greatly benefit autonomous mobility systems in any unstructured environment. The mobility risk assessment system could be embedded in agricultural vehicles and general off-road vehicles for improved mobility performance. The IRLW itself could be adapted sold as a new wheel for terrestrial applications such as unmanned ground vehicles in agriculture.