Archives for September 2015

CubeSat Robot Designed for Disaster Relief

CubeSat Robot Designed for Multiple Uses

Have you ever wanted to build a multipurpose robot?  A robot that would do many things well here’s someone who’s done this this robot is based on the design of a CubeSat. CubeSats are small satellites built in the shape of a cube. This project is called the Rapidly Deployable Automation System or RDAS.

Are you interested in a project where human tele-operational control of a robot rover is possible with a hands-free wearable headband that tracks the human’s head movements, thus moving the robot?

These small spacecraft were originally designed as an inexpensive alternative for opening up space exploration too many opportunities that would not necessarily take place with the more expensive satellite technology. Another reason for developing these CubeSats was to push the technology to see what could be accomplished in a very small inexpensive platform.

CubeSat Design History

One of the first examples of a CubeSat was the Vermont Lunar CubeSat. The ambitious goal of this project is to develop a cube sat that will eventually orbit the moon. The initial satellite, which cost about $50,000 and funded in part by a grant from NASA, served as a test bed model for spacecraft navigation and guidance.

A CubeSat (U-class spacecraft)[1] is a type of miniaturized satellite for space research that usually has a volume of exactly one liter (10 cm cube), has a mass of no more than 1.33 kilograms,[2] and typically uses commercial off-the-shelf components for its electronics.

Vermont Lunar CubeSat

“Vermont Lunar CubeSat” by Cbrandonvt – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

The eventual goal of the project is to build a CubeSat capable of orbiting the moon.  It was launched on November 19, 2013 from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia as part of a payload containing two NASA, 11 university, one high school and 14 Air Force CubeSats.

Rapidly Deployable Automation System

The CubeSat robot developed by “Erin RobotGrrl” is a 3-D printed bot made of both rigid and flexible materials and is equipped with hinges which allows it to fold into a cube. This robot is designed for a number of task. Some of those task include monitoring of natural disasters, exploration, and remote measurements of the environment.

One very interesting component of the project is the unique 3-D printed headset. The headset is used to control and operate the cube shaped robot. One future possibility for this little robot could be the exploration of the surface of Mars.

Let me know what you think about this.  Leave a comment.

Source: 3D Printed CubeSat Robot is Controlled with a Headband And Could Tackle Natural Disaster Relief

Humanoid Space Robot May Soon Join the ISS Crew

A humanoid space robot

Nao robots are finding uses in many areas.  These little guys have been the first to show signs of self-awareness and are one of the most popular robots for education and research.  Now a Nao robot could be the first humanoid robot to take up permanent residence on the International Space Station (ISS).

Now, I know some of you might be saying wait a minute here.  Isn’t there already a humanoid robot on the ISS?  After all, Robonaut 2 has already made a home on the ISS and has proved to be a valuable member of the crew.  I asked this question myself.  I wonder if Robonaut is not considered humanoid since it does not have the lower part of its body attached.  Or maybe Robonaut is not a permanent part of the crew.  At any rate, in the article I read about this, Nao is being touted as the first permanent humanoid resident.

Potential space robot Nao

Futur en Seine digital technology festival, Paris, June 2015. Le robot Nao. Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France

A research team at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research just put mankind a bit closer to complete robot rule this past month, outfitting the humanoid robot Nao with an “autobiographical memory.” To make this accomplishment even more astounding, the team intends to push for its new robotic system to become a permanent member of the International Space Station.

Not the first robots on the ISS

Nao may be considered the first humanoid robot on the ISS, but it will not be the first robot.  There have been many robots on the station over the years.   The station has several robot arms to assist with tasks such as capturing resupply vehicles and moving station modules into place.  Perhaps the most famous is the Canadarm2 or the Mobile Servicing System (MSS).  This robotic arm was launched to the ISS in 2001.  It has been very important in assembly of the ISS.  Also, its aids astronauts when they are conducting spacewalks.

Another robot on the station is the Robonaut 2.  This humanoid robot, also known as R2, went to the ISS on the shuttle Discovery in the STS-133 mission.  R2 is a test platform to generate data on how a robot may work with astronauts in the future.  This bot has the ability to work autonomously as well as to be tele-operated by the astronauts or from the ground.

Space Robot SPHERES

Three satellites fly in formation as part of the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) investigation. This image was taken during Expedition 14 in the Destiny laboratory module. NASA/International Space Station Expedition 14 Public domain.

If you count the robotic arms on the ISS, there are quite a few robots onboard the station already.  Besides the previously mentioned Robonaut, there are the SPHERES.

NASA has been testing SPHERES on the space station since 2011.

Pictured in the photo to the center left, they are flying in formation. These free-flyers will receive an upgrade with a smartphone to become a bot known as Smart SPHERES.

…this prototype free-flying space robot equipped with a smartphone, known as Smart SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites).

The station astronauts have upgraded these existing space robots to use Google’s “Project Tango” smartphone, which features a custom 3-D sensor and multiple cameras. Smart SPHERES are being used to test free-flying 3-D mapping and navigation inside the space station. NASA developed the Smart SPHERES to perform work on the space station that requires the mobile sensing the bots have onboard.  It is hoped they will carry out environmental monitoring of levels of radiation, lighting, and air quality.  Smart SPHERES is funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

Space robot SPHERE
Image Credit: NASA/Ames

What is the future for robots on the ISS and beyond?

Robots will continue to play a role on the ISS as new and more capable machines are developed.  When missions beyond low Earth orbit are conducted in the future robots will almost certainly be along side of the astronauts.  Its hard to imagine that they would not.  Space robotics will be able to enhance the ability of humans to conduct safe and successful missions.

What is your opinion on the place of robots in human spaceflight?  Let me know with your comments.

Source: NASA Ames Launches Smartphone Upgrade and CubeSat Aboard Orbital Rocket

Source: A humanoid robot may soon be the first permanent resident on the ISS

Robotic Lawn Mowers: Are We at the Breakthrough Moment?

Have you ever wanted to mow the lawn while sitting on your front porch sipping iced tea?  If this is something that sounds too good to be true, this may be one of those times that it is true!  Robotic lawn mowers may have finally come into their own.

What exactly is a lawn-mowing robot?

A robotic lawn mower is an autonomous robot used to cut lawn grass. A typical robotic lawn mower requires the user to set up a border wire around the lawn that defines the area to be mowed.

Robot mowers tend to either be able to mow very fast and cover large areas of lawn or to be slower and more precise.  Most of the mower bots have been used in commercial applications such as golf courses.

Robotic lawn mowers

Mowing the lawn is one of those tasks that is destined to be a big robotics market when the technology finally advances to the point to make the robot mowers cost-effective and easy to set-up and use.  As far as dreaded jobs around the house, it ranks right up there with dishwashing and laundry.

A brief history of robotic lawn mowers

It might be hard to imagine, but the first or at least one of the first robotic mowers was introduced in 1969.

Possibly the first commercial robotic lawn mower was the MowBot, introduced and patented in 1969 and already showing many features of today’s most popular products.

Robotic Lawn MowersMost of the barriers to the wide use of robotic lawnmowers by the average homeowner has been the expense of the units and the fact that a boundary wire had to be set up to keep the mower from straying into the neighbors bed of prized roses.  By the end of 2005, robotic lawn mowers were the second largest category of domestic robots.  By 2012, the sales of robotic lawn mowers far outpaced that of the traditional mowers.

Several features have changed over the years in the mowing robots.  For one, many of the robots are self-docking.  They can park themselves when finished with the job.  Another feature of some robotic mowers is the addition of rain sensors.  What these added technologies mean is that the robots do nearly all the lawn mowing work.

Smartphone use has increased to the point that some robotic mowers now incorporate their use.  Many have integrated features within custom apps.  The apps can be used to adjust settings or schedule mowing times and frequency.  It is possible to manually control the mower with a digital joystick from the device.

The new iRobot mowers use a system of stakes that broadcast a radio signal to mark the boundaries for the bot.


The recent approval of iRobot’s application for its new robot mower is not without controversy.  Although the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stated that the devices will not interfere with a critical area of radio frequencies used by radio telescopes, many radio astronomers are not convinced of the arguments.  They remain opposed to the use of these radio transmitters in the boundary of the mowers.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently given its approval to the company for the release of a robotic lawn mower (RLM), according to a report from Reuters. FCC ensured that the signal beacon from iRobot’s device does not interfere with radio signals.

Are robotic lawn mowers finally at the breakthrough moment?  Would you buy one?  Tell me what you think.

Source: Robotic lawn mower from iRobot receives approval from FCC