An array of strange, sharp-edged rocks appeared suddenly on a sandy beach near ESA’s technical centre as part of an ambitious test of robotic rover technology. Rovers for Mars and other destinations will operate much too far from Earth for direct teleoperation to be feasible. Instead, some level of automation is essential.
Katwijk beach, close to ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands, was chosen to test two new sets of software for rover navigation.
“Both software routines rely on the presence of landmark features,” explains Martin Azkarate of ESA’s Planetary Robotics Laboratory. “The problem is that this flat, sandy North Sea beach doesn’t normally have any.
“So we added 212 cardboard ‘rocks’ for our testbed rover to navigate around.” [More at link]