Australia: Outback Rover, a prototype autonomous vehicle developed by Australian scientists, will improve the accuracy of Earth observation satellites that are used to provide data to the country’s mining and agricultural industries.
Outback Rover has been developed by researchers at the CSIRO, Australia”s national science agency. It is helping to calibrate satellites that provide clues to Earth”s soil condition, mineralogy and vegetation. Accompanied by researchers from Japan, China, Israel and France, CSIRO scientists recently took the rover prototype on a mission to Lake Lefroy — a huge salt lake in remote Western Australia — to see if they can automate the satellite calibration process. This is where they match the information gathered by satellites against measurements taken on-ground and compared them for accuracy. This process is called vicarious calibration and is undertaken by ground crews who walk in grids or transects, taking measurements with hand-held devices known as spectrometers, as satellites travel overhead.
CSIRO”s science leader for robotics Dr. Alberto Elfes hopes the rover will be able to collect calibration data autonomously and send it wirelessly back to researchers. “The ultimate goal is to have the rover operate alone, with scientists from over the world able to retrieve data from it or control it remotely in real-time,” Dr. Elfes said.