Back in August we put the spotlight on Ryonic Robotics and its amazing pipe-inspection robot. Now the company based right here in Joburg is partaking in the NASA Space Robotics Centennial Challenge.
As the only South African team to make it into the qualifying round taking place on the 24th of this month, SA’s team and competitors from around the world will need to create a robot that could assist in space travel.
The challenge is focused on a Mars mission, with the teams having to focus on three specific tasks: “aligning a communications array, repairing a broken solar array [and] identifying and repairing a habitat leak.”
To do this the teams will have to programme a virtual robot modelled after NASA’s R5 (also called Valkyrie) as it helps with a dust storm that has damaged a Martian habitat. All of this will be done in a virtual environment that will simulate problems in the real word, such as latency issues that become apparent when you beam instructions to a robot from Earth to Mars.
This initial qualification round will last until mid-December with the finalists announced in January 2017. From there another virtual competition will take place in mid-June and the ultimate winners being announced at the end of that month.
The prize pool is a whopping $1 million, which would be even better for a South African team winning it as it converts to more than R14 million.
Six local engineers from Ryonic Robotics will compete from here but will need to fly out in the states if they win or finish in the top three. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that South Africa can produce a better robot than Chappie.
[Image – IEEE Spectrum on YouTube]