Multirobot lunar excavation and ISRU using artificial-neural-tissue controllers

Jekanthan Thangavelautham, Alexander Smith, Nader Abu El Samid, Alexander Ho, Dale Boucher, Jim Richard, Gabriele M.T. D'Eleuterio

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


Automation of site preparation and resource utilization on the Moon with teams of autonomous robots holds considerable promise for establishing a lunar base. Such multirobot autonomous systems would require limited human support infrastructure, complement necessary manned operations and reduce overall mission risk. We present an Artificial Neural Tissue (ANT) architecture as a control system for autonomous multirobot excavation tasks. An ANT approach requires much less human supervision and pre-programmed human expertise than previous techniques. Only a single global fitness function and a set of allowable basis behaviors need be specified. An evolutionary (Darwinian) selection process is used to 'breed' controllers for the task at hand in simulation and the fittest controllers are transferred onto hardware for further validation and testing. ANT facilitates 'machine creativity', with the emergence of novel functionality through a process of self-organized task decomposition of mission goals. ANT based controllers are shown to extdbit self-organization, employ stigmergy (communication mediated through the environment) and make use of templates (unlabeled environmental cues). With lunar in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) efforts in mind, ANT controllers have been tested on a multirobot excavation task in which teams of robots with no explicit supervision can successfully avoid obstacles, interpret excavation blueprints, perform layered digging, avoid burying or trapping other robots and clear/maintain digging routes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpace Technology and Applications International Forum, STAIF 2008, including co-located conferences
PublisherAmerican Institute of Physics Inc.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780735404861
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes
EventSpace Technology and Applications International Forum: Enabling Space Exploration, STAIF 2008 - Albuquerque, NM, United States
Duration: Feb 10 2008Feb 14 2008

Publication series

NameAIP Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)0094-243X
ISSN (Electronic)1551-7616


ConferenceSpace Technology and Applications International Forum: Enabling Space Exploration, STAIF 2008
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAlbuquerque, NM


  • Collective robotics
  • Developmental systems
  • Evolutionary algorithms
  • ISRU
  • Neural networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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