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The design and manufacture of a mobile drilling robot inspired by biology
Group Members
James Bell, Chiraag Chandarana, Laurence Costick, Ioana Gazdac, Robert Harrison, Finn Murph
Dr Alexander Wittig, Dr Ivo Peters
The Boeing Company, Igus
In preparation for future space exploration, it is essential to understand further the Moon’s surface and the resources held there. The field of robotics already provides a method of collecting samples in the form of lunar rovers, however the conditions on the lunar surface pose problems that conventional robotics struggle to overcome. This project aimed to tackle these challenges by developing a novel drilling mechanism and locomotion system. The proposed design incorporates both mechanisms and aims to collect regolith samples which can be stored with potential for future development to enable testing. This testing can provide further knowledge about the Moon’s stratigraphy and lithology.

Biological creatures have evolved over millions of years, developing effective systems for navigating environments. The robot has been inspired by examples of motion and digging found in biology. The unique sampling system is inspired by a wood wasp’s ovipositor, using two reciprocating halves which push and pull the regolith to drill which requires a lower overhead force than conventional drilling. The locomotion mechanism draws inspiration from the rectilinear motion of serpents, enabling effective movement over sandy surfaces by keeping two of its six legs stationary on the ground while the others move relative to the surface.

A prototype to demonstrate these mechanisms was manufactured and the robot successfully demonstrated the locomotion mechanism traversing across a regolith simulant at various inclines. The sampling system has been fully implemented and has operated as designed.
Exploded view of robot system.
Drill and sampling system.