GYROBALL has received the following awards and nominations. Way to go!
We are a team of six people from different backgrounds (A planetology Ph’D student, a high school student, a robotics engineer, a financial analyst in the investment banking industry, an undergraduate electronics engineer and finally a FabLab maker). We were lucky to meet each other for the first time at the competition and the match was perfect.
Have you heard about the Jericho Rose, also known as the resurrection plant? It is a desert plant that survives in one of the harshest environments on earth and succeeds to find a solution to one of the most complicated Artificial intelligence problems; finding water (a target) in an unknown and hostile environment. When there is a risk of dehydration, the Jericho Rose dries itself and uses wind to roll, and can keep on rolling in this form for decades, until it finds any form of water then comes back to life again as nothing has happened.
Inspired by this amazing creature (Biomimetics is all about getting inspiration from Mother Nature) we thought of a concept that would help to make planets exploration more efficient and affordable.
As the rose, the GyroBall is a module made from very light materials and has a structure that makes moving with Martian wind possible. Inside it, we would put an electronic circuit with many sensors.
At first a spacecraft will land on Mars. It would play the role of the tree and release a lot of the seeds. Each one of the seeds, ready to spread with the wind, is actually a GyroBall. The tree would play also the role of the main antenna, capable of communicating with each one of the seeds and relaying the data they gathered to a satellite in order to send them to Earth.
Each seed carries an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Using the data from this sensor the Tree or the seeds themselves can estimate their Pose (X,Y,Z) relative to the initial position( X0,Y0,Z0) that represents where the tree is and also their orientation ( pitch, roll , yaw), using a Kalman Filter. This way Mother Tree can track where each one of its seeds are located.
After the release, the Martian breeze will spread our GyroBalls little by little. The Gyroballs will sample precious data measured close to the soil (Temperature, Atmospheric pressure, Humidity...) and collect unprecedented dataset to study the planet. The IR camera would take frames at a regular interval and we would use the orientation of the seed to filter which images we want to keep (Soil image, sky view...)
The seeds are able to communicate with each other and this to achieve two main Goals. First, if a seed is too far from the tree to send it its data package, it can relay the information to closer seeds and this way extend the communication range by making a mesh network. Secondly, as each one of the seeds tracks its movement, and knows its position and more importantly its altitude (Z) relative to the tree’s (Z0), we can have a very precise way to map Martian soil by taking advantage of the spread of the seeds.
Some of the most important aspects in our concept are:
- Compared to Curiosity Rover, each seed is very affordable thus with the same cost we can make hundreds or thousands of them.
Having so many is very important. It would allow to sweep a larger area and faster and increase the precision and also the quality of data as the more the area is large the more various our samples are.
Also, as we will have so many, the probability of survival of the seeds is bigger, and we wouldn’t worry if one of the seeds is lost, stuck or out of range.
- Storms are a problem and a risk factor for planets exploration missions. But as the seeds relay on the wind to travel, storms are instead an advantage for as they would help with the spread.
- As the GyroBalls won’t use any actuators, we can make a very energetic consumption efficient circuits using passive sensors that can function for a long time. Also we can embed small solar panels but also wind turbines to take advantage of the wind for energy generation too.
All in all, our idea represents the start of a new generation of planets exploration missions as it allows to:
The GyroBall Team
SpaceApps is a NASA incubator innovation program.