Europa Bot

Distributed Autonomous System Laboratory

Europa Bot

Collaborators and Students: 

Milecia Matthews (MS student, OSU)

Dr. Arvind Santhanakrishnan (Asst. Prof. specializing in fluid dynamics at OSU)

Project Description: 

In late 2012 the Hubble space telescope found strong evidence of hundreds of kilometer tall water vapor plumes on the south pole of the Jovian moon Europa. What is perhaps most exciting about these vapor vents is the possibility that they could connect to the subsurface liquid water oceans. This means that unlike previously thought, it could be possible to reach the oceans of Europa without having to melt through kilometers deep ice on a planet that receives only 25% of the sunlight that Earth does.

However, maneuvering through the high viscocity flow in the ice-water slush present in the water-vapor vents requires novel robotic platforms and control algorithms.  At the low Reynolds number flows in ice-water slush, propellors or Archimedes' screw type propulsion mechanisms may not work. Our goal is to design and fabricate prototypes of robotic swimmers that mimic the ‘flap-and-fling’ flapping kinematics seen in all the smallest flying and swimming insects, including fairyflies (Mymaridae spp.), Thrips physapus,  parasitoid wasps Muscidifurax raptor and Nasonia vitripennis. The flap-and-fling mechanism is especially well-adapted to maneuvering in low-Reyonds number flows.

We are currently working on a sub 400 gms robotic prototype that utilizes the flap-and-fling mechanism to maneuver in high viscocity flows. Along with designing actuation mechanisms we are also working on novel adaptive control and decision making algorithms for enabling autonomous control in communication and power constrained harsh space-environments. 

The above figure is the first Prototype of Europa Bot: the motors are used to actuate flap-and-fling motion to maneuver the robot; the white substance creates a waterproof seal in gaps on the chassis to protect the onboard electronics.