Battery-Swapping Multi-Agent System for Sustained Operation of Large Planetary Fleets
We propose a novel, heterogeneous multi-agent architecture that miniaturizes rovers by outsourcing power generation to a central hub. By delegating power generation and distribution functions to this hub, the size, weight, power, and cost (SWAP-C) per rover are reduced, enabling efficient fleet scaling. As these rovers conduct mission tasks around the terrain, the hub charges an array of replacement battery modules. When a rover requires charging, it returns to the hub to initiate an autonomous docking sequence and exits with a fully charged battery. This confers an advantage over direct charging methods, such as wireless or wired charging, by replenishing a rover in minutes as opposed to hours, increasing net rover uptime.
This work shares an open-source platform developed to demonstrate battery swapping on unknown field terrain. We detail our design methodologies utilized for increasing system reliability, with a focus on optimization, robust mechanical design, and verification. Optimization of the system is discussed, including the design of passive guide rails through simulation-based optimization methods which increase the valid docking configuration space by 258%. The full system was evaluated during integrated testing, where an average servicing time of 98 seconds was achieved on surfaces with a gradient up to 10°. We conclude by briefly proposing flight considerations for advancing the system toward a space-ready design. In sum, this prototype represents a proof of concept for autonomous docking and battery transfer on field terrain, advancing its Technology Readiness Level (TRL) from 1 to 3.
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