The grand final of the fifth edition of European Rover Challenge is fast approaching. In a week, almost 400 engineers from five continents will travel to Poland to take part in the tournament. As in previous editions teams will compete in five challenges: four on the Martian field and one presentation task.
The grand final of the fifth edition of ERC will take place on 13-15 September 2019 at Kielce University of Technology, at the very heart of Poland. There are 40 teams from 15 countries that have qualified for the final stage. They represent, among others, Germany, Canada, Great Britain, Poland, Turkey, India, USA and Australia.
For the European Rover Challenge there will be a Martian field formed at the Kielce University of Technology campus. With its shape, colour and geological composition it will imitate the surface of the Red Planet. “It is this course where the contestants will compete in four field categories based on the guidelines for future space explorations created by NASA and ESA. The teams’ job is to demonstrate skills of the robot they have worked on for past twelve months and its remote navigation,” says Lucas Wilczynski, CEO of Planet Partners as well as founder and main organiser of ERC.
The ERC tasks have been designed to exclude the luck factor, which means they can be completed only by rovers that are able to operate and resist changing conditions of the real environment.
What challenges will the contestants face?
- Science Task – The first task is to take soil samples (including one from a deep layer of the Mars Yard) by using any technique (e.g.: drilling) and secure them properly for testing.
- Maintenance Task – The teams must manoeuvre their robots to complete a designated route towards a control panel and perform several manual operations, such as setting switches to the right position, making electric measurements, observing control panels, etc.
- Collection Task – In order to complete this task, rovers must find and collect containers with samples from three different locations and then deliver them to a designated place safely.
- Traverse Task – The task is to find different points in the Mars Yard without using the image from the rover’s camera. Rovers should navigate themselves using only a map.
- Presentation Task – In the given time limit the teams must present themselves, their project stages and the biggest challenges they faced while constructing the rover. Team members also must be prepared for potential jurors’ questions. This is the only task that doesn’t take place on Mars Yard.
The tasks performed during ERC are considered one of the most difficult in this kind of challenges – both due to high expectations that teams must meet as well as technical limitations. Rovers moving around the Mars Yard cannot use GPS navigation and their operators have no direct view of their rovers while performing specific tasks. This allows to maintain conditions that reflect those during missions to Mars as closely as possible. The challenge is a great opportunity to find best constructors who have real chances to work in the space sector as well as other high-tech industries.
Mars Yard not only for academic teams
It’s the second time during ERC that the Pro formula will be promoted. It allows professional space robot constructors who are not participating in the challenge to come to the Martian field. While moving around the Mars Yard they will be able to check how their projects behave and deal with field tasks based on projects carried out by space agencies.
The Pro formula aims at enabling presentations of capabilities that more advanced robots have as well as integrating start-ups, companies, research groups etc. that work or aspire to work in the space robotics sector.
The European Rover Challenge 2019 is co-organised by the European Space Foundation, Starachowice Special Economic Zone, Mars Society Polska, Swietokrzyskie Voivodship authorities and Kielce University of Technology in collaboration with the City of Kielce and the Kozminski University – co-organiser of the mentoring and business conference.
The event will be organised under the European Commission, European Space Agency, Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Poland which co-funds the event, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Poland, Polish Space Agency and Polish Space Industry Association. Up-to-date information about the event can be found on www.roverchallenge.eu.