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Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/gi-2018-52
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/gi-2018-52
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 02 Jan 2019

Research article | 02 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems (GI).

A low-cost autonomous rover for polar science

Andrew O. Hoffman1, Hans Christian Steen-Larsen2, Knut Christianson1, and Christine Hvidberg3 Andrew O. Hoffman et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA
  • 2Geophysical Institute of Bergen and Bierknes Center for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway
  • 3University of Copenhagen and Centre for Ice and Climate, Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract. We present the developmental considerations, design, and deployment of an autonomous modular terrestrial rover for ice-sheet exploration that is inexpensive, easy to construct, and allows for instrumentation customization. Total construction cost for this rover is less than $3000, approximately one tenth the cost of existing platforms, and it can be built using facilities frequently available at academic institutions (machine shop, 3D printer, open-source hardware and software). Instrumentation deployed on this rover can be customized; the rover presented in this study was equipped with a dual-frequency GPS receiver and a digital SLR camera for constructing digital elevation models using structure-from motion (SfM) photogrammetry. We deployed this prototype rover on the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream to map local variations in snow accumulation and surface topography. The rover conducted four autonomous missions based out of the East Greenland Ice Core Project (EGRIP) camp during July 2017, measuring surface elevation transects across the hazardous ice-stream shear margins. During these missions, the rover proved capable of driving over 20km on a single charge with a drawbar pull of 25°N, sufficient to tow commercial ground-penetrating radars. The rover also acquired photographs that were subsequently used to construct digital elevation models of a site monitored for spatiotemporal variability in snow accumulation, demonstrating adequate stability for high-resolution imaging applications. Due to its low cost, low-power requirements, and simple modular design, mass deployments of this rover design are practicable. Furthermore, operation of the rover in hazardous areas circumvents substantial expense and risk to personnel associated with conventional, crewed deployments. Thus, this rover is an investigatory platform that enables direct exploration of polar environments considered too hazardous for conventional field expeditions.

Andrew O. Hoffman et al.
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Short summary
We present the design considerations, and deployment of an autonomous modular terrestrial rover for ice-sheet exploration that is inexpensive, easy to construct, and allows for instrumentation customization. The rover proved capable of driving over 20km on a single charge with a drawbar pull of 250N, sufficient to tow commercial ground-penetrating radars. Due to its low cost, low-power requirements, and simple modular design, mass deployments of this rover design are practicable.
We present the design considerations, and deployment of an autonomous modular terrestrial rover...
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