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The Huygens probe arrived at Saturn's moon Titan on January 14, 2005, unveiling a world that is radically different from any other in the Solar system. The data obtained, complemented by continuing observations from the Cassini spacecraft, show methane lakes, river channels and drainage basins, sand dunes, cryovolcanos and sierras. This has lead to an enormous scientific interest in a follow-up mission to Titan, using a robotic lighter-than-air vehicle (or aerobot). Aerobots have modest power requirements, can fly missions with extended durations, and have very long distance traverse capabilities. They can execute regional surveys, transport and deploy scientific instruments and in-situ laboratory facilities over vast distances, and also provide surface sampling at strategic science sites. This paper describes our progress in the development of the autonomy technologies that will be required for exploration of Titan. We provide an overview of the autonomy architecture and some of its key components. We also show results obtained from autonomous flight tests conducted in the Mojave desert.
Aerospace Conference, 2008 IEEE
Date of Conference: 1-8 March 2008