Exploring the Use of Terrestrial Robots for Atmospheric Electricity Measurement

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


Measuring the electric field is a central goal in electrostatics research, such as the study of electrostatics in atmospheric processes. It serves as a key indicator for various atmospheric phenomena, including the presence of lightning, dust or charged clouds. Traditionally, electric field measurements have been conducted from static platforms, with limited mobile measurements from airborne platforms such as balloons or, more recently, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Here, we explore the potential of terrestrial robots to measure the electric field with some level of autonomy, such as during supervised navigation between user-defined waypoints. We mount a field mill on a four-wheeled rover and use a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) to track the position of its measurements during an outdoor survey. The robot has a depth camera for 3D terrain mapping to contextualise local field measurements. We present plans for future research, including the use of semi-autonomous identification and exploration of electrostatic 'hotspots'; and deployment of multiple robots (e.g., six) in a 'sparse swarm' configuration. We consider opportunities to employ such a robot system in environmental science or space research, for instance on Mars or the moon, where an understanding of electrostatic processes could be significant for future space missions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJournal of Physics: Conference Series
PublisherIOP Publishing
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) for its financial support through the grant UIDB/00667/2020 (UNIDEMI). And to thank the Faculty of Science and Technology - Universidade NOVA de Lisboa and the Instituto Superior Técnico – Universidade de Lisboa for the work carried out in the framework of the research centres UNIDEMI and CERENA, respectively.

Publisher Copyright:
© Published under licence by IOP Publishing Ltd.


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