Shapeshifter: A Multi-Agent, Multi-Modal Robotic Platform for Exploration of Titan

by   Andrea Tagliabue, et al.

In this paper we present a mission architecture and a robotic platform, the Shapeshifter, that allow multi-domain and redundant mobility on Saturn's moon Titan, and potentially other bodies with atmospheres. The Shapeshifter is a collection of simple and affordable robotic units, called Cobots, comparable to personal palm-size quadcopters. By attaching and detaching with each other, multiple Cobots can shape-shift into novel structures, capable of (a) rolling on the surface, to increase the traverse range, (b) flying in a flight array formation, and (c) swimming on or under liquid. A ground station complements the robotic platform, hosting science instrumentation and providing power to recharge the batteries of the Cobots. In the first part of this paper we experimentally show the flying, docking and rolling capabilities of a Shapeshifter constituted by two Cobots, presenting ad-hoc control algorithms. We additionally evaluate the energy-efficiency of the rolling-based mobility strategy by deriving an analytic model of the power consumption and by integrating it in a high-fidelity simulation environment. In the second part we tailor our mission architecture to the exploration of Titan. We show that the properties of the Shapeshifter allow the exploration of the possible cryovolcano Sotra Patera, Titan's Mare and canyons.


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