Monday, May 24, 2021

Desert Robot Project


Sonoran Desert - Arizona, USA

My new objective for remote robot exploration in collaboration with Patterntology

Exploring Robots:  Desert Robot Project

Living in the desert, watching what is going on around. An Internet <=> Reality interface/portal. It is a true remote sensing platform that is self-sustaining. It needs protection from the harsh elements of sun, rain, dust, and animals. It has to have the right scale to move and manipulate. but most of all it has to have the ability to see and sense and to communicate this back to the digital world.

This post is a collection of thoughts on what a Desert Robot could potentially be.


It will be a remote sensing platform, with the ability to move, manipulate, and communicate. This is the basic function of all of the probs we have sent to planets, asteroids, and space. But, these robot will be for earth.

It is clear that all Exploring Robots will have the common requirements of:

  • Sense the Environment (vision,hear, temp, smell, feel, etc)
  • Manipulate the environment (possibly)
  • Move (preferably)
  • Communicate its finding, take commands
  • Process the above, as well as manage itself
  • Power: preferably renewable and storable, and portable
finally, all of the other requirements are all about surviving in the environment they are destined for.


outside of the primary functions, the non-functional requirement is to survive. It needs to survive the punishing environment that is not particularly kind to electro-mechanical systems.

Desert Robot surviving means managing these aspects:

  • Intense Sunlight, Ultraviolet and Infrared Radiation
  • Heat in excess of 45c, or below freezing
  • Dust and Sand
  • Rain, monsoon flooding, potential immersion
  • Desert animals - PackRats!  Insects and critters
  • People - that want to abscond with our dear robot


Shape - the robot could perhaps be some robotic cross between a tortoise and a crab. It would need a hard outer shell for protection and to encapsulate the internal electronics. The bottom would need to be smooth, like a tortoise so that it could slide over rocks and obstacles. A bio-inspired outer shell would be ideal for protecting the primary components.

Mobility - choices on types of movement would need to be adjusted by how far and over what terrain is planned. For the first iterations, I am considering that the robot should be able to move and manipulate, but that it would not travel over long distances. Being constrained to just a few dozen of square meters would allow the focus to be on desert wildlife instead of unexplored terrain or vistas. If this is the case, it would be possible to use some small legs that could drag the robot, instead of wheels or treads. small, stout legs can be implemented with a few simple servos and would not require a large power source.

Scale - how large should this robot be?  That would be a function of the energy budget available and what obstacles it would need to overcome.  On the desert floor in the Sonoran Desert, for example, there are many branches from plants and cactus that would need to be maneuvered around.  The size of the solar panels needed for operations and communications would also need to be considered.

What other design considerations should be made for a Desert Robot?

Please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

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