The European Rover Challenge is a renowned international planetary robotics competition organized by the European Space Foundation, that provides a valuable opportunity for students looking to advance their careers in industries vital to future generations.
Students from technical universities around the world form teams and design unique stuctures. After few months of hard work their concepts are validated by space sector professionals from Airbus, Sener, and many more acknowledged companies & associations. When qualified to the finals, teams further test their prototypes on a geologically realistic Martian terrain in a number of demanding tasks based on real NASA and ESA missions. Since 2014, the event has held nine editions and gathered over a million people attending on-site and online, in addition to hosting over three thousand contestants from six continents!
This task is intended to demonstrate the system’s ability for semi to fully autonomous traversal. The Team shall develop a project which gradually evolves into a fully autonomous system, traversing and gathering important data on its way. At an early stage, the system can be decoupled with the operator in the loop, but all planning and parameter estimation must be done by the computer system itself. This limits the operator to navigate the rover blindly i.e., without access to visual or any other spatial information, however, any kind of data can be processed on-board, providing the operator with support information about the localisation and state of the system. A smart navigation strategy, sensor fusion and image data processing are essential in this task.
Regional Geology Analysis – The goal is to select and shortly describe a best landing site on a pre-defined region on Mars. Selected landing site must be geologically interesting, possible to land there based on currently available techniques and safe to access by a rover.
Science Planning – The goal is to analyse the Mars Yard as a “landing site” and design a scientific mission in this area (Geological map, geological history of the area & exploration plan).
Scientific Exploration – The goal is to verify the hypothesis stated in the Scientific Plan, collect samples and bring these to the “base”, collect a drone image and send it automatically to the rover control tent, and to observe the surroundings for potentially scientifically interesting objects that will be placed around the Mars Yard.
The task is intended to demonstrate the ability of rovers to operate with a variety of elements mounted on a panel. The Team has to use the rover’s manipulating device to set switches to the required positions, measure electrical parameters, set other panel controls and observe indicators’ feedback.
The Presentation Task lets Teams introduce themselves and present their projects. The Jury expects to learn how the Team worked on the project, what kind of technical solutions are implemented in the rover (on-site formula) or in the software (remote formula), what was the approach of the Team to solve particular tasks during the competition (e.g. electro-mechanical design, algorithms for both onsite and remote formulas), and how the team solved problems and issues which occurred during development (lessons learned). The team should also be prepared for a Q&A session and discussions with Judges.
The European Rover Challenge Marsyard is a unique installation designed by planetary geologists, inspired by a selected part of the Red Planet. Active volcanoes, impact craters, traces of water activity – these are just some of the elements of the track. The so-called Marsyard attracts the attention of scientists from around the world because of its faithful reproduction of Martian geological processes.
The ERC is a thrilling spectacle that showcases the best of the best in planetary exploration. With tasks designed to replicate the challenges faced by real-life rovers on Mars and the Moon, it’s a chance for the new generation of engineers to demonstrate their skills and creativity on a global stage under the watchful eye of leading industry experts and space agencies’ deputies.
Participation in the event enables competitors to meet with the world’s most prominent institutions’ experts from NASA, European Space Agency, EUSPA, German Aerospace Center (DLR), International Space University, and International Astronautical Federation, and furthermore validate their business ideas with leading companies in the European space sector, such as Thales Alenia Space, Airbus, and GMV.