Three autonomous Mars rovers have been put through their paces in a barren corner of the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
Overlooked by over 40 engineers and organized by Germany’s DFKI Robotics Innovation Centre, this robot jamboree was designed to test automated navigation and other space robotics technologies in anticipation of future planetary missions.
Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program and coordinated by the international Project Plan European Roadmap and Activities for Space Exploitation of Robotics and Autonomy (PERASPERA), the tests were conducted at the Ibn Battuta Centre, near Erfoud on the northern edge of the Sahara Desert.
This area was chosen because the EU’s Europlanet Research Infrastructure regards it as a good analog of the Martian environment.
The field tests for the rovers began with ESA drone overflying the test area to provide a digital topographic map with a resolution of 4 cm (1.6 in). Combined with the rover’s data, the space agency says that this would provide a dataset for validating ESA’s own algorithms.