Tactical Rover Planning by Intelligent Wide-Baseline Stereo

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

Panoramic camera instruments on planetary rovers are mainly used to provide context imagery for strategic mission planning in the form of daily (=sol-by-sol) panoramas and digital terrain models (DTMs) during ground operations. Such products are generated from so-called fixed-baseline stereo images as available from the instruments’ stereo separation.

Such a configuration is able to provide DTMs up to a typical distance of 20-40 m apart from the rovers only, due to fast degradation of resolution and specifically range accuracy, depending on viewing distance.

Contemporary rovers (e.g. the MSL Rover Curiosity) are able to travel more than 100m per day, a distance that cannot be covered by any on-board stereo vision sensor for planning a safe path on Earth or on-board prior to travelling.

With proper selection of imagery acquired, coupled with rover motion, a technique called "wide baseline stereo" (WBS) will lead to much longer ranges to be covered by 3D mapping using on-board rover vision sensors, and therewith considerably enhance the capability of strategic planning.

Contents and goals

Following techniques and challenges are involved:

  • Selecting optimum locations and directions for imaging to gain maximum quality / resolution / extension of 3D vision products, to save data downlink budget
  • View Planning by simulated imagery on satellite-based DTMs, knowledge about expected WBS DTM accuracy and quality, exhaustive search on current rover track for the best WBS image capturing opportunities
  • Giving the rover task schedule a priority list of images to "serendipitously" take with given resources. This ensures optimum data return for mid to long-range planning
  • Processing of the captured WBS images, leading to geocoded 3D data products (DTMs and/or general 3D surface models with a few hundred meters of diameter, or from spots in hundreds of meters to kilometers distance to the rover)
  • Embedding of the generated 3D data products in HiRISE satellite-based DTMs to place them in proper global Mars context
  • Visualize the data product (including fusion results) in an immersive way
  • Make the data visualization & view planning available to the rover Teams of related Mars missions and instruments such as MSL Mastcam, ExoMars PanCam & CLUPI (also for close-range), Mars 2020 Mastcam-Z, and in terrestrial applications
  • Document the 3D vision methods in academic publications and contribute to scientific publications using the generated 3D vision products for planetary science.

WIBSTAC will take place in close cooperation with ExoMars operations preparation. It is an important building block of major mission objectives such as the ability to conduct an integral set of measurements at multiple scales, and the Rover’s access to appropriate geologic environment (by long-range mapping in proper 3D resolution).

Project Partners


JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH

Project partner

  • SLR Engineering GmbH
  • VRVis Zentrum für Virtual Reality und Visualisierung Forschungs-GmbH

Contact Address

JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH
Leonhardstraße 59
A-8010 Graz
Tel.: +43 (316) 876-0
E-Mail: prm@joanneum.at