Long-Distance Autonomous Survey and Mapping in the Robotic Investigation of Life in the Atacama Desert
To study life in the Mars-like Atacama Desert of Chile we have created a robot, Zoë, and conducted three seasons of technical and scientific experiments. We describe Zoë’s exploration algorithms and architecture and assess a total of six months of long distance survey traverses. To date Zoë has navigated autonomously over 250 km. Its average distance per autonomous traverse is 672 m with 75 traverses over one kilometer in a single command cycle. Zoë’s payload includes instruments to rapidly measure biologic and geologic properties of the environment. By registering these measurements to estimated position scientists are able to correlate biologic, geologic and environmental factors and better understand life and its habitats in the most arid desert on Earth.