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AEROSPACE

Autobots come to life in NASA’s possible Titan explorer

Autobots come to life in NASA’s possible Titan explorer
The Siliconreview
26 September, 2019

Robots are referred to as heroic explorers who boldly venture into unknown turfs where humans can’t collect scientific data and capture images. Humans are still in the process to study celestial bodies and robotic explorers are made to adapt to inhospitable and strange environments. NASA recently shared a 3D printed prototype of mini-robots that can transform from one machine to another and also perform tasks independently. These robots are dubbed as Shapeshifter, and could be the future of space exploration. The prototype is now being tested at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the concept is speculated to include 12 robots that can swim or fly. These cobots can explore oceans and caves where robots previously couldn’t explore and these are equipped with propellers.

The semi-autonomous prototype (also referred to as cobot) looks like a hamster wheel with a drone at the center. This robot can split and fly into two drones and it is being tested as a part of NASA’s research program known as Innovative Advanced Concepts. Shapeshifter is being prepped to explore Titan, Saturn’s moon whose surface is covered in liquid methane. Dragonfly will explore the parts that were unexplored by NASA’s Cassini mission like the ice volcanoes or caves that are hid beneath Titan’s dense atmosphere. Data on the surface composition is very limited hence the cobotis built in a system that is versatile enough to traverse the various types of terrains. The design is compact and the cobots will rely on the spacecraft lander for energy and other instruments needed for analysis.