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lunes, 18 de mayo de 2020


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Planetary Exploration Rover Avoids Sand Traps with “Rear Rotator Pedaling”

(A) NASA’s RP15 prototype. (B) The Mini Rover resting on a bed of loosely packed poppy seeds on an incline of θbed ≈ 20∘. (C) Four top-view rendered snapshots of the Mini Rover executing a quadrupedal gait: an RS gait with no modulation. In the RS gait, all wheels except the one colored in red sweep toward the rear of the rover for 2.7 s. The sweep direction for each wheel in each snapshot is shown with the black arrows. Once the sweep is complete, the wheel begins the reset phase, where the wheel is colored in red. The Mini Rover lifts the resetting wheel with its four-bar linkage and rotates it 90° toward the front of the rover in 0.9 s. The reset direction for each wheel is shown in red arrows.

press release

The rolling hills of Mars or the moon are a long way from the nearest tow truck. That’s why the next generation of exploration rovers will need to be good at climbing hills covered with loose material and avoiding entrapment on soft granular surfaces.

Built with wheeled appendages that can be lifted and wheels able to wiggle, a new robot known as the “Mini Rover” has developed and tested complex locomotion techniques robust enough to help it climb hills covered with such granular material – and avoid the risk of getting ignominiously stuck on some remote planet or moon.

Using a complex move the researchers dubbed “rear rotator pedaling,” the robot can climb a slope by using its unique design to combine paddling, walking, and wheel spinning motions. The rover’s behaviors were modeled using a branch of physics known as terradynamics.

“When loose materials flow, that can create problems for robots moving across it,” said Dan Goldman, the Dunn Family Professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “This rover has enough degrees of freedom that it can get out of jams pretty effectively. By avalanching materials from the front wheels, it creates a localized fluid hill for the back wheels that is not as steep as the real slope. The rover is always self-generating and self-organizing a good hill for itself.”

The research was reported on May 13 as the cover article in the journal Science Robotics. The work was supported by the NASA National Robotics Initiative and the Army Research Office.

A robot built by NASA’s Johnson Space Center pioneered the ability to spin its wheels, sweep the surface with those wheels and lift each of its wheeled appendages where necessary, creating a broad range of potential motions. Using in-house 3D printers, the Georgia Tech researchers collaborated with the Johnson Space Center to re-create those capabilities in a scaled-down vehicle with four wheeled appendages driven by 12 different motors.

“The rover was developed with a modular mechatronic architecture, commercially available components, and a minimal number of parts,” said Siddharth Shrivastava, an undergraduate student in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “This enabled our team to use our robot as a robust laboratory tool and focus our efforts on exploring creative and interesting experiments without worrying about damaging the rover, service downtime, or hitting performance limitations.”

The rover’s broad range of movements gave the research team an opportunity to test many variations that were studied using granular drag force measurements and modified Resistive Force Theory. Shrivastava and School of Physics Ph.D. candidate Andras Karsai began with the gaits explored by the NASA RP15 robot, and were able to experiment with locomotion schemes that could not have been tested on a full-size rover.

The researchers also tested their experimental gaits on slopes designed to simulate planetary and lunar hills using a fluidized bed system known as SCATTER (Systematic Creation of Arbitrary Terrain and Testing of Exploratory Robots) that could be tilted to evaluate the role of controlling the granular substrate. Karsai and Shrivastava collaborated with Yasemin Ozkan-Aydin, a postdoctoral research fellow in Goldman’s lab, to study the rover motion in the SCATTER test facility.

“By creating a small robot with capabilities similar to the RP15 rover, we could test the principles of locomoting with various gaits in a controlled laboratory environment,” Karsai said. “In our tests, we primarily varied the gait, the locomotion medium, and the slope the robot had to climb. We quickly iterated over many gait strategies and terrain conditions to examine the phenomena that emerged.”

In the paper, the authors describe a gait that allowed the rover to climb a steep slope with the front wheels stirring up the granular material – poppy seeds for the lab testing – and pushing them back toward the rear wheels. The rear wheels wiggled from side-to-side, lifting and spinning to create a motion that resembles paddling in water. The material pushed to the back wheels effectively changed the slope the rear wheels had to climb, allowing the rover to make steady progress up a hill that might have stopped a simple wheeled robot.

The experiments provided a variation on earlier robophysics work in Goldman’s group that involved moving with legs or flippers, which had emphasized disturbing the granular surfaces as little as possible to avoid getting the robot stuck.

“In our previous studies of pure legged robots, modeled on animals, we had kind of figured out that the secret was to not make a mess,” said Goldman. “If you end up making too much of a mess with most robots, you end up just paddling and digging into the granular material. If you want fast locomotion, we found that you should try to keep the material as solid as possible by tweaking the parameters of motion.”

But simple motions had proved problematic for Mars rovers, which got stuck in granular materials. Goldman says the gait discovered by Shrivastava, Karsai and Ozkan-Aydin might be able to help future rovers avoid that fate.

“This combination of lifting and wheeling and paddling, if used properly, provides the ability to maintain some forward progress even if it is slow,” Goldman said. “Through our laboratory experiments, we have shown principles that could lead to improved robustness in planetary exploration – and even in challenging surfaces on our own planet.”

The researchers hope next to scale up the unusual gaits to larger robots, and to explore the idea of studying robots and their localized environments together. “We’d like to think about the locomotor and its environment as a single entity,” Goldman said. “There are certainly some interesting granular and soft matter physics issues to explore.”

Though the Mini Rover was designed to study lunar and planetary exploration, the lessons learned could also be applicable to terrestrial locomotion – an area of interest to the Army Research Laboratory, one of the project’s sponsors.

"This basic research is revealing exciting new approaches for locomotion in complex terrain," said Dr. Samuel Stanton, program manager, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory. "This could lead to platforms capable of intelligently transitioning between wheeled and legged modes of movement to maintain high operational tempo."

Beyond those already mentioned, the researchers worked with Robert Ambrose and William Bluethmann at NASA, and traveled to NASA JSC to study the full-size NASA RP15 rover.

This work was supported by the Army Research Office (W911NF-18-1-0120) and the NASA National Robotics Initiative (NNX15AR21G). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsoring agencies.

CITATION: Siddharth Shrivastava, Andras Karsai, Yasemin Ozkan-Aydin, Ross Pettinger, William Bluethmann, Robert O. Ambrose, Daniel I. Goldman, “Material remodeling on granular terrain yields robustness benefits for a robophysical rover.” (Science Robotics, May 2020)

More info:

Material remodeling and unconventional gaits facilitate locomotion of a robophysical rover over granular terrain

Autonomous robots and vehicles must occasionally recover from locomotion failure in loosely consolidated granular terrain. Recent mobility challenges led NASA Johnson Space Center to develop a prototype robotic lunar rover Resource Prospector 15 (RP15) capable of wheeled, legged, and crawling behavior. To systematically understand the terradynamic performance of such a device, we developed a scaled-down rover robot and studied its locomotion on slopes of dry and wet granular media. Addition of a cyclic-legged gait to the robot’s wheel spinning action changes the robot dynamics from that of a wheeled vehicle to a locomotor paddling through frictional fluid. Granular drag force measurements and modified resistive force theory facilitate modeling of such dynamics. A peculiar gait strategy that agitates and cyclically reflows grains under the robot allows it to “swim” up loosely consolidated hills. Whereas substrate disturbance typically hinders locomotion in granular media, the multimode design of RP15 and a diversity of possible gaits facilitate formation of self-organized localized frictional fluids that enable effective robust transport.


Safran : Repurchase of own shares for allocation or sale to employees

press release

Within the scope of its share repurchase program authorized by the May 23, 2019 shareholders' meeting (14th resolution), Safran (Euronext Paris: SAF) has entrusted an investment service provider to acquire up to 62,500 ordinary Safran shares, representing 0.01% of its share capital as at April 30, 2020, no later than May 22, 2020 and subject to market conditions. These shares will be allocated to free share grant programs to some employees. The unit purchase price may not exceed the maximum of €155 per share set by the May 23, 2019 shareholders' meeting.


Rolls-Royce launches first immersive virtual reality training for business aviation customers

press release

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rolls-Royce continues to ensure world-class support for our global customer base. As part of our IntelligentEngine vision we are further expanding the use of immersive Virtual Reality technology for customer training.

The latest addition to the remote training programme is an instructor-led distance learning course, providing a comprehensive overview of the construction, design and operation of the Rolls-Royce BR725 engine that powers Gulfstream’s current flagship G650 business aircraft family. After completion of this comprehensive two-day training course, participants will be able to service the engine and undertake non-routine maintenance.

Andy Robinson, SVP Customers and Services - Business Aviation, Rolls-Royce, said: “Rolls-Royce has been the leading engine supplier for business aircraft for more than two decades thanks to our continued commitment to the highest levels of service support. We are tremendously proud to have been voted number one in the latest Engine Product Support Services Survey of Aviation International News (AIN) by our operators.

Digitalisation plays a vital role in in bringing our IntelligentEngine vision to life; we use it to design, test and maintain our engines. This new immersive live Virtual Training tool is nothing short of a game-changer - it makes us the leader in technical training and allows customers to participate in the new training, wherever they are in the world. They just need an internet connection, and the required VR equipment, which will be shipped directly to their door,” Andy added.

Lee Bradshaw, Director of Technical Operations, Cox Aviation, said: “The new Virtual Reality maintenance course is a great example of the innovative thinking that is needed to meet the challenges of our ever-changing world. This programme allows each student to immerse themselves in an augmented environment full of realistic images, interactive functions and auditory feedback to delve deeper into the engine like never before. The course complements the industry-leading service already provided by Rolls-Royce and is another reminder of why this company is pioneering the way in creative solutions for the future.”

While not intended to completely replace practical training, Rolls-Royce see the value Virtual Reality adds for customers, such as higher flexibility and the elimination of the need to ship a full size training engine. The user finds themself as part of two realistic scenarios – the engine installed on the aircraft in a virtual hangar and the BR725 engine alone, just like it would be in our in-person training courses. The immersive environment allows them not only to watch the process steps to get familiar with the respective task, but to interact with the engine and the tools, and actually accomplish the task under the constant supervision of the instructor.

Where to enroll?


Boeing-built X-37B Launches in Second Mission for U.S. Space Force

press release

The Boeing [NYSE: BA]-built X-37B autonomous spaceplane today launched on top of a uniquely configured United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the X-37B spaceplane and facilitates the integration of all experiments into the vehicle ensuring they receive the correct power, thermal and data services required. Boeing also works to identify future reusable platform experiment opportunities on each mission.

The X-37B’s sixth mission is the first to use a service module with additional payload capability to support a variety of experiments for multiple government partners. The mission will deploy FalconSAT-8, a small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy and sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory, to conduct experiments on orbit. Further, two NASA experiments will study the impact of radiation and other space effects on certain materials and seeds used to grow food. Another experiment by the Naval Research Laboratory will transform solar power into radio frequency microwave energy which could then be transmitted to the ground. In addition, the mission will test reusable space vehicle technologies.

The X-37B first launched in April 2010. Originally designed for missions of 270 days duration, the X-37B has set endurance records during each of its five previous flights. Most recently, X-37B spent 780 days on orbit before returning to Earth in October 2019.

“The X-37B has shifted the paradigm and redefined efficiency in space development, said Jim Chilton, Boeing Space and Launch senior vice president. “The rapid technology advancements enabled by the program will benefit the entire space community and influence the next generation of spacecraft design.”

The X-37B program is a partnership between the Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the United States Space Force. Boeing program management, engineering, test and mission support functions for the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) program are conducted at Boeing sites in Southern California and Florida.


Clean Sky: Highlights 2019: En route to climate-neutral aviation

Quoting Clean Sky web page…

2019 was a significant year for Clean Sky. We are delighted to announce the launch of the Clean Sky Highlights 2019 report, available now for download.
Halfway through the programme, it is gratifying to see that our vast ecosystem of researchers and engineers is delivering cutting-edge results for greener aviation in fields such as propulsion, systems, aero structures, aerodynamics, and overall aircraft configuration.
To date, Clean Sky has successfully engaged more than 900 actors across the public and private sector, of which, approx. 340 are SMEs, 110 are research centres, 150 are universities and 300 represent industry. Thanks to the united forces of these participants, we are on track to deliver our ambitious objectives of reducing emissions and noise in aircraft, in alignment with the European Commission’s Green Deal.
The Highlights 2019 report is designed to give you a taste of Clean Sky’s main achievements in 2019, as part of the EU Horizon 2020 programme. You’ll find a sample of some of our innovative technical advances, visualisations of our ever-increasing participation figures, insights into our current synergies and a glimpse of the future for clean aviation.


Future Combat Air System: Airbus and Fraunhofer FKIE create expert panel on the responsible use of new technologies

press release

In the frame of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS),
Airbus (stock exchange symbol: AIR) and Bonn, Germany-based Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE have created an independent panel of experts on the responsible use of new technologies to define and propose ethical as well as international legal “guard rails” for Europe’s largest defence project.

The expert panel, which was first initiated in Germany in 2019, currently includes stakeholders such as the German Ministry of Defence, German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foundations, universities as well as think tanks.

“In many ways, FCAS represents a giant leap forward. Not only is it Europe’s largest defence programme in the coming decades, which will foster collaboration across our partner nations. With FCAS we`ll be significantly stepping up our game in terms of new technologies which will form part of this sixth-generation ‘System of Systems’”, said Dirk Hoke, Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Defence and Space. “This opens up new opportunities in terms of security policy and helps to strengthen Europe's role in the world. But there are also ethical and legal challenges which we have to address.”

The FCAS programme reflects a complex and extensive networked “System of Systems”, of which a next generation manned fighter will represent one key element. Such manned platforms will team with unmanned ones, called "remote carriers", which will be providing additional capabilities to complete the missions at stake. Scalable and interoperable system architectures will allow upgraded existing platforms to be integrated into FCAS. Leveraging the collaborative capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms will require an "Air Combat Cloud" fusing in real time massive amounts of data augmented by warfare analytics and articifical intelligence. Furthermore, it is expected that the technologies developed in the frame of this project will also have significant beneficial spill-over effects for future civil applications.

Professor Reimund Neugebauer, President of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft e. V., added: “FCAS is the largest and most technologically ambitious European defense program ever. One essential question we’re trying to tackle with this panel is how we can ensure that, on the one hand, such a system meets the necessary mission requirements of the 21st century on a global scale, while, on the other hand, ensuring full human control of such a system at all times and under all circumstances. For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, a major defense policy project is accompanied from the start by the intellectual struggle for the technical implementation of basic ethical and legal principles – “ethical and legal compliance by design".”

In order to create the greatest possible transparency over the proceedings of the expert panel, a website was established: All panel members make their contribution free of charge and are solely committed to their conscience.

An interview by Dirk Hoke and Professor Reimund Neugebauer further outlining the panel’s purpose and partnership can be read here:

In order to reflect the European nature of the FCAS programme, it is foreseen in due course to broaden the panel to further participating nations.


How COVID-19 Has Affected Defense Production


X-37B spaceplane launched for sixth secretive mission


Cessna SkyCourier 's first flight

press release:

Textron Aviation Inc., a Textron Inc. (NYSE:TXT) company, today announced the successful first flight of its new twin utility turboprop, the Cessna SkyCourier. The milestone flight is a significant step toward entry into service for the clean-sheet aircraft, and it kicks off the important flight test program that validates the performance of the Cessna SkyCourier.

“Today was an exciting day for our employees, our suppliers and our customers. The Cessna SkyCourier performed exactly as we expected, which is a testament to the entire team of men and women who worked together to prepare for this day,” said Ron Draper, president and CEO, Textron Aviation. “I’m proud of the way the team has persevered through disruptions caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic and remained focused on getting us to this point. The Cessna SkyCourier will be an excellent product in its segment due to its combination of cabin flexibility, payload capability, superior performance and low operating costs. Our customers will be very pleased with what they experience from this aircraft.”

The Cessna SkyCourier took off from the company’s east campus Beech Field Airport, piloted by Corey Eckhart, senior test pilot, and Aaron Tobias, chief test pilot. During the 2-hour and 15-minute flight, the team tested the aircraft’s performance, stability and control, as well as its propulsion, environmental, flight controls and avionics systems.

“We were very pleased with how the Cessna SkyCourier performed throughout its first flight,” Eckhart said. “It was particularly impressive to see how stable the aircraft handled on takeoff and landing. The Cessna SkyCourier already displays a high level of maturity in its flight characteristics, especially for a first flight. We were able to accomplish everything we wanted on this flight, and that’s an excellent start to the flight test program.”

The prototype aircraft, along with five additional flight and ground test articles, will continue to expand on performance goals, focusing on testing flight controls and aerodynamics.

Relentless capability
The Cessna SkyCourier, featuring Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC engines, will be offered in various configurations including a 6,000-pound payload capable freighter, a 19-seat passenger version or a mixed passenger/freight combination, all based on the common platform.

The Cessna SkyCourier is designed for high utilization and will deliver a combination of robust performance and lower operating costs. Cessna SkyCourier will feature the popular Garmin G1000 NXi avionics suite and offer highlights such as a maximum cruise speed of up to 200 ktas and a maximum range of 900 nm. Both freighter and passenger variants of the Cessna SkyCourier will includer single-point pressure refueling as standard to enable faster turnarounds.
Cessna SkyCourier First Flight B-roll Video


Aciturri completa la fabricación y entrega de una nueva versión de la sección S19 del A350 

Nota de prensa

Dentro del paquete de trabajo de rediseño y fabricación de la estructura interna de la Sección 19 (S19) del A350, Aciturri ha completado la entrega de todos los componentes correspondientes a la nueva configuración del avión, conocida como Step 7, que incluye, entre otras significantes mejoras, una ampliación de la cabina de pasajeros.

Para lograrlo, se han fabricado numerosas piezas y montajes respondiendo al nuevo diseño del fuselaje posterior de la aeronave, resultado de mover el mamparo de presión (Rear Pressure Bulkhead) hacia la cola del avión. Esto facilitaba la posibilidad de ampliar la capacidad de pasajeros o aumentar la distancia de separación entre ellos y, por ende, incrementaba el volumen de piezas inicialmente previstas.

Entre las piezas fabricadas se incluyen, principalmente, nuevas cuadernas y refuerzos, así como un gran cambio en todos los soportes de sistemas. Esta nueva configuración implica, inicialmente, una serie de modificaciones en las piezas ya fabricadas, que se entregarán en paralelo a las versiones anteriores. La cadencia de entregas de esta nueva configuración irá aumentando durante los próximos años hasta alcanzar un "full rate".  

Desde el punto de vista tecnológico, esta nueva configuración incluye piezas complejas de RTM, forjas de aluminio, mecanizados de titanio y piezas de ATL y termoconformado.

Éste ha sido un proyecto de gran envergadura para la compañía, donde se ha involucrado la totalidad de la cadena de valor de Aciturri y donde han participado los equipos de las plantas de Aerostructures en Ayuelas (Burgos), Boecillo (Valladolid), Tres Cantos (Madrid) y Sevilla. De igual forma, ha participado una extensa lista de colaboradores de nuestra cadena de suministro. A todos agradecemos el esfuerzo y compromiso con el proyecto.

Está previsto que Airbus finalice el montaje del primer A350 con esta nueva configuración en los próximos meses.