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March 19, 2013

World's First Wind-Powered Polar Rover Explores Antarctic in Eco-Friendly Expedition

Antarctica is almost as unknown and unexplored as Mars, so it’s understandable that scientists would develop a rover to explore the territory.

Though it’s been done before, the newest robotic recruit is run on renewable energy – an important first in the robotics field.

Polar Rover is a replica of sorts of the famed Mars Rover Curiosity, which recently made its landing on the planet to scale the alien mountains and collect samples, camera and video feeds of the landscape.

Polar Rover is set to do the same, but a bit (okay, more than a bit) closer to home. In contrast to Curiosity, however, Polar Rover is the world’s first wind-powered, satellite controlled autonomous robot. Measuring 1.8 meters long, 1.2 meters high and 1.6 meters wide – and weighing in at 300 kilograms – the rover is equipped with an impressive variety of scientific hardware.

The rover features a host of atmospheric sensors, geography and geology analyzers to facilitate its Antarctic treks, and the main body is built on an Urban Green Energy (UGE) vertical axis wind turbine.

The turbine is the most significant feature of the design, named “HoYi!” and was developed by the Kunlun Polar Research Team in Antarctica, the Chinese design team that worked in cooperation with UGE, the rover’s manufacturer.

So far, Polar Rover has proven its worth, traveling 2,500 kilometers at heights rising to 4,000 meters above sea level. The robotic explorer is reportedly capable of traversing through hurricane-force winds, temperatures ranging from tropical to Antarctic, and geomagnetic interference.

Its team is thus confident the machine will last through the project’s term.

After 58 days in these extreme environmental conditions, including polar winds and cosmic rays, Polar Rover is nearly outshining Curiosity, and will likely push a move toward more environmental robotic practices when it comes to terrain exploration and rovers.

By the end of its trip, Polar Rover will have collected important data regarding the climate in Antarctica that should prove useful in determining and neutralizing the causes (and hopefully inspire solutions) of climate change in the region.

With Curiosity and Polar Rover hard at work, we will soon have a better understanding not only of other planets, but of our own.




Edited by Braden Becker


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