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Snake-Like EELS Slithers into Robotics Terrain

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EELS being tested in the sandy terrain of JPL's Mars Yard.

The robot has been put to the test in sandy, snowy, and icy environments, from the Mars Yard at JPL (above) to a “robot playground” created at a ski resort in the snowy mountains of Southern California, and even at a local indoor ice rink.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A self-propelled snake-like robot developed by researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) can map and navigate previously inaccessible terrain autonomously.

The EELS (Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor) robot can choose a safe path through terrains ranging from steep craters to underground lava tubes, and can adapt to uncertainty.

The robot weighs 220 pounds, is 13 feet long, and is comprised of 10 rotating segments featuring screw threads for propulsion, traction, and grip.

EELS employs four pairs of stereo cameras and LiDAR to produce three-dimensional maps of its surroundings, which navigation algorithms analyze to identify the robot’s safest route.

JPL's Matthew Robinson said, "It has the capability to go to locations where other robots can't go. Though some robots are better at one particular type of terrain or other, the idea for EELS is the ability to do it all."

From NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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