Autonomous Systems Facilities
13 Feb 2018



The Autonomous Systems Group has expertise in organising and conducting field-testing and gathering the right information for Validation and Verification of both the test site and robots.

An Autonomous Systems robot during tests in the Atacama desert

​​​​One of the Autonomous Systems robots​ during tests in the Atacama desert​


Robotic Platforms for Field Test Campaigns

We offer a range of robots for the scientific community that can be used on a large variety of project. These robust robots are designed for field testing, have all-day battery life, and accurate telemetry that can be used for Validation and Verification (V&V)​ activities. The robots also have many features that make field trial logistics easier such as long battery life, ruggedness, easy payload integration, accurate odometry, environmentally controlled payload compartments and easy disassembly for shipping. ​​


ASG has been operating a number of UAVs to support field testing or deploy instrumentation. Some of the UAVs are off-the-shelf such as DJI Inspire 1 or the Quest 200 and Quest 300 UAVs while some are adapted for specific deployment such as the Vertical Take-off and Landing fixed wing UAV the FireFly 6. The ASG has trained (CAA approved course) commercial UAV pilots that can deploy these UAVs safely. While a number of sub 1kg instruments can be deployed on board these UAVs (such as NDVI) usually they are used for photogrammetry and ASG has software that can create accurate 3D elevation maps from the image data, using precisely measured ground calibration points. The largest DEM created to date is the SEEKER DEM of the Atacama Desert covering ~2 x 6 km area at 0.01 meter resolution.​​​

​​Outdoors rover testing area 

This area is used for small-scale field testing and a realistic shakedown testing area for any ground robotic platform. This area is used by ASG to test field trials platforms before deployment and available to the community via the Field Trials Unit for testing V&V and even some vision trials. This area has been used by projects such as SEEKER and SAFER and is used for outreach activities such as the UKSEDS Lunar Rover Competition​.

A full suite of Field Trial Equipment

This suite includes logistics equipment, GNSS (RTK accuracies), long-range communication systems, drilling equipment and other support equipment for field deployments (e.g.: tents, tables, laptops). This equipment is available via the ESA Field Trails Unit for any field test campaigns. Apart from making field deployment easy the key advantage is accurate ground truth measurements, tested safety equipment and robust communication network to rover and near-by (up to 50 km) location. This equipment has been used for field trial campaigns such as SEEKER, SAFER and MURFI and will be used ​V&V for future field trials anywhere on the planet.

​​Left to right: RAL Space test area during the UKSEDS Lunar Rover Competition in 2017 / Some of the ground support equipment during the SAFER field trail in the Atacama desert.

​Autonomous rendezvous and docking test rig and gravity compensation rig

Initially developed to test satellite docking, this rig can be used partially to suspend rovers to test motion as if it was conducted in lower gravity.​

For more information please email: RAL Space Enquiries