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Space Robotics

NASA Prizes for Builder and Flyer Robots 74

FleaPlus writes "NASA has recently announced a couple more X-Prize-style Centennial Challenges. The first is a Telerobotic Construction Challenge, for using a team of robots to assemble structures from building blocks with minimal human intervention. The second is an Planetary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Challenge, to create a robot which can fly a path using visual navigation and hit ground targets with a probe (no GPS allowed). Rules are still being finalized, with the contests scheduled for 2007. Both prizes are for $250,000, the max Congress is allowing NASA to offer."
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NASA Prizes for Builder and Flyer Robots

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  • Fixed prize limit? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Saturday December 03, 2005 @06:41AM (#14172880)
    $250k is a not a whole lot of money. I'm not sure how many outfits would be able to get something out of the design stages without more money than that, so this prize would most likely not even cover costs.

    That may not be the point, but it would sure be nice to at least have the development costs for projects like this covered by prize money.

  • Matching funds? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Saturday December 03, 2005 @06:44AM (#14172884)
    Since the $250k limit is imposed by congress, maybe matching funds could be sought from private sponsors. Surely some of the big contractors like Boeing and those sorts of guys would be willing to put up some prize money if they might end up getting the big contracts to develop and build the real things?
  • by inflex ( 123318 ) on Saturday December 03, 2005 @06:45AM (#14172888) Homepage Journal
    While the prize money isn't a lot, it might actually have an interesting effect in bringing about the less well funded but no less ingenious developers into the foray while the typical high ranking developers/companies pay less attention. It's certainly something I'd be interested in participating in (the aerial navigation).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 03, 2005 @07:25AM (#14172945)
    Is the goverment totally attempting to demonstrate how disconnected from reality it has become? I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind these ridiculous terms: Do something incredible hard, mostly for free, no attempt on our part to even pretend to cover a fraction of the cost with the reward money. I'm sorry, why? The goverment hands out billions in Corporate welfare, funds global police actions, but this is their idea of a reasonable way of conducting themselves in some sort of scientifc endevour?

  • by PlayfullyClever ( 934896 ) <> on Saturday December 03, 2005 @10:08AM (#14173291) Homepage Journal
    I am a high school student, so I believe I am qualified to answer you.

    First, be forwarned. I don't mean to sound cynical, but there is not a whole lot that has to do with science and technology that would excite most students. Even if it does, a lot of people are too scared of being called a "nerd" or a "geek" and thereby having their social status for the rest of the four years ruined to show that excitement.

    There are, however, some. I don't think that a robotics competition is a good idea, however. I don't know about most schools, but at mine there are not a lot of people interested in robotics. Besides, it would take a lot of work, and a lot of the most brilliant people are inherently lazy.

    I think the programming fair was a great idea, however. Every time I write a program to do the simplest thing on my TI-83+ graphing calculator (such as convert celsius to fahrenheit for instance) people gape at me with awe and amazement and ask, how did you DO that? This includes jocks, socialites, and various other groups of people who would normally not be caught dead showing an interest in the "nerdy" fields of computers or technology.

    If you put on a programming fair, you are not going to be able to teach anyone computer programming in a day, but you will spark their interest. Give away a few CDs with C tutorials on them or something, and maybe, just maybe, a few kids will try them out.

    Also, expect the bit-head population to turn out in force at your fair. You can even put some of them to good use, having them help the newbies who have no idea what's going on.

    In conclusion, programming fair=good, robotics competition=bad.
  • by acaspis ( 799831 ) on Saturday December 03, 2005 @10:53AM (#14173424)
    it can't cost over £10k to build the airframe

    Extra points if your design scales to the low-density atmosphere of Mars, and can fly slow enough to do the probe thing.

    the only hard part is that it needs to know where it is and what orientation it's in

    Well, that pretty much sums up one of the most painful problems in robotics.

    Yhe latter is trivial - use a giro like any other aircraft would

    No. Gyros drift. Aircraft autopilots rely on other things, like radio beacons on the ground, or GPS. Or the sun.

    The former could probably be done by taking either a stereo image from two cameras mounted on the wing tips

    To get accurate 3D information out of this, you'd need to be flying pretty close to the ground.

    or useing some sort of downward looking radar,

    Yes, lookup "IFSARE". Good luck tracking your elevation data while flying over a flat plain or lake - then you need the visual clues too.


  • by xeoron ( 639412 ) on Saturday December 03, 2005 @11:06AM (#14173458) Homepage
    The point perhaps: To have a reasonable starting point, then there it is all about tweeking and evolving....
  • by FhnuZoag ( 875558 ) on Saturday December 03, 2005 @11:39AM (#14173580)
    The second is an Planetary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Challenge, to create a robot which can fly a path using visual navigation and hit ground targets with a probe (no GPS allowed).

    There is obviously a military connection here. For probe, read bomb, or bullet. Essentially, it's designing the next generation of autonomous UAVs. Presumeably, our military planners now believe GPS to be possible to compromise in times of war. (fairly reasonable thanks to the new attention on space war)

    What are the ethics of this sort of competition?
  • by jovlinger ( 55075 ) on Saturday December 03, 2005 @12:52PM (#14173869) Homepage
    It's great for pushing things

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury