FURI | Spring 2022

Development of URCHIN: An Autonomous Multi-Agent Framework for Extraterrestrial Exploration and Geological Sample Collection

Data icon, disabled. Four grey bars arranged like a vertical bar chart.

Current surface exploration swarm vehicle concepts have been designed to navigate the environment specific to their proposed mission destination, resulting in a design that is too dependent on its use-case to be deployed to alternative planetary body types without the need for major structural changes. The objective of this research is to analyze the performance of the team’s concept: URCHIN, an autonomous, multi-agent system of sample collection agents designed to traverse a diverse set of extraterrestrial terrain types found within the reachable solar system. The design utilizes multiple telescoping legs as the means for both locomotion and sample collection. The unique, dual-functionality of the legs offers the opportunity to store greater amounts of collected samples onboard than alternative swarm vehicle designs. Simulation and modeling of reinforcement learning methods are being used to derive a walking gait strategy for the URCHIN agents to adapt to variable terrain conditions. Future work will focus on developing algorithms for coordinating swarm behaviors and managing task allocation.

Student researcher

Andrea Schoonover

Andrea R. Schoonover

Software engineering

Hometown: Spring Lake, North Carolina, United States

Graduation date: Spring 2023