61 teams have submitted their application in the registration process of ERC 2020. Based on the technical documentation they sent, the jury qualified 33 teams from 14 countries to move on to the final stage of the competition. Next month, the teams will compete in two field tasks using an innovative remote-robot management platform delivered by an American start-up from Silicon Valley and mobile inspection robots built by a Polish company. Field tasks will include photographing objects from the MarsYard as well as performing servicing operations at the target machine located on the Martian field.
The teams will control the robots equipped with a navigation system based on wheel odometry (the use of data from motion sensors to estimate how far the rover has traveled) and IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) which is a combination of an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Moreover, participants will have two cameras at their disposal, including a stereovision one that simulates human binocular vision and therefore gives the ability to perceive depth. That will help teams estimate the distance to various checkpoints and obstacles. However, in order to use that feature teams need to prepare their own software prior to the competition. The more autonomous their rover is, the bigger the chance of successfully completing the tasks and moving higher in the final ranking.
The ERC competition has always been a unique challenge – both in engineering and programming. Remote simulations are a standard of the space industry and most certainly the future of the robotic sector. We are very excited that the new formula of our tournament brings us even closer to the way the high-tech sectors test their new solutions on a regular basis. In that sense, the global pandemic didn’t force us to change the logistics of the competition, it merely accelerated what we have thought about for a long time.
– explains Lucas Wilczynski, the founder and CEO of the European Space Foundation which is the main organizer of the ERC competition.