Newsletter August 2021

The field campaign has come to an end far too quickly for our liking!
Nonetheless, we are proud of what we have achieved during the event in Switzerland.

We would now like to share a quick overview and some images of our operations at Mount Pilatus and the Swiss Museum of Transportation.

The Location

We were located at Lucern. Our rover, LARSS has been transported to the top of Mount Pilatus with one of the steepest railways on earth (48%!!).

Our control room was set up at the Swiss Museum of Transport. From there, we were able to control LARSS. We also had a booth for visitors, giving them the possibility to learn more about us.

Despite our hopes for lots of sunshine, we had to deal with much fog. This was not optimal, as we were now forced to reduce our plan of operations to a minimum. Making the best out of the situation, we were able to be fully operational for three days.


On this occasion, we have made a Q&A with our subteam leads. We asked them all the same questions about their team and tasks during the field campaign:

  1. What was your subsystem’s task and how well did it work?
  2. What were your team’s tasks at the FC?
  3. What did you learn from the FC?

Propulsion and Chassis (PC)

  1. PC has 2 main functions for the tests in the FC. During the PL tests, the PC was supposed to position and hold the sintering system in place. This function seems to be properly fulfilled. The second major function is the driving capability of the rover. Tests performed at the FC have shown that the driving capability of the current system does not yet meet our aspirations.
  2. PC was responsible for the mechanical setup and maintenance of our assembly. Additionally, when the weather did not allow for proper PL tests, we did preliminary drive system tests.
  3. The FC showed us some weaknesses in our system. In addition, we were able to identify further potential for improvement in terms of communication, organizational structure, and long-term planning.

Electronic Power System (EPS)

  1. EPS has to provide a power supply and a communication bus to the different parts of the rover. These two main aspects worked as expected on the rover. Due to a problem with one of our own PCBs, we could not have tracking and reporting of the system’s status as we would have liked it. 
  2. We are responsible for powering all other subsystems so that they can do their job. This is done with a central LiFePO4 battery and several DC-DC converters. The different voltage levels are then distributed over the whole rover. The second aspect of our responsibilities is to provide a communication bus to every electrical consumer. This enables the different parts of the rover to talk to each other.

Command and Data Handling (CDH)

  1. The CDH subsystem acts as an interface to the rover system. It was able to receive instructions from the operators in the control room, translate them into internal instructions, and send those to the desired subsystem. Furthermore, it was also able to receive data from said subsystems, which was then transmitted back to the control room. In this manner, the operators are able to observe the behavior of the rover.
  2. CDH is responsible for the rover software. During the field campaign, members of CDH had two main roles, remote and on-site operators. The latter had the task of setting up the rover for remote operation and communicating with the operators in the control room. From the control room, operators had the task of commanding the rover and observing that the data is transmitted.
  3. Testing at the field campaign has delivered promising results. The envisioned behavior of the system was partially achieved. Communication between the rover subsystems, as well as between CDH and the control room worked as intended. Testing at the FC has also unveiled some bugs in the software, as well as new sources of error which were not taken into consideration during the design phase. With this new insight, we have a clear road map on how to move forward with software development, in order to improve the system, as well as increase robustness.

Payload (PL)

  1. We were supposed to sinter hard surfaces from the prepared sand. We successfully sintered small surfaces but were unable to reach set size requirements due to very short sunny periods.
  2. The payload team was responsible for the payload operation and the sintering on the mountain. Looking for good weather, preparing the sintering surface, and monitoring the sintering process.
  3. We learned the importance of meticulous pre-planning for such a field campaign and preparing for unexpected bad weather.