Topical Issue on Robotics for exploration and science in extreme environments

Guest Editors: 

Miguel Olivares-Mendez,
David Rodriguez,
Raj Thilak Rajan,
Konstantinos Alexis

Opening date for submissions: June 1, 2023
Deadline for submissions: October 3, 2023


Despite promising developments in robotics and automation, we are reliant on humans and single-agent systems for some of the most dangerous scientific tasks on Earth and beyond. Environmental monitoring and sampling of rivers, oceans, and glaciers, spatio-temporal mapping of arctic regions, the exploration and characterization of uncharted off-Earth planetary environments, and space-based astronomy, are but some examples. Single and heterogeneous teams of robots have the potential to adapt to and thrive in these extreme, unstructured, and dynamic environments. Understanding the mechanisms by which robots can be successfully deployed and autonomously cooperate to assist, augment, and eventually alleviate the need for large groups of humans in these regions is at the forefront of today’s robotics research and technology development. This topic collection aim to bring together a community of roboticists and environmental, polar, and space researchers with the goal of redefining the state of the art in the field of single and heterogeneous multi-robot cooperation for exploration and science in extreme environments. Heterogeneity, in this context, can be understood as either behavioral (same robots, different roles), physical (different robots, similar roles), or a combination of both (different robots, different roles). The goals of this topic collection are to  1) identify high priority scientific and exploratory tasks, on- and off-Earth, where deploying teams of robots can be beneficial, 2) understand how single and heterogeneous teams can effectively cooperate to map, characterize, reason, and act in extreme, dynamic, and unstructured environments, and 3) define prime areas where research and development should focus on in the upcoming years within the crossroad of robotics, exploration, and science in extreme environments. 

•    Status of and challenges in performing science and exploration in extreme environments including but not limited to oceans, glaciers, arctic regions, volcanoes, hot-springs, caves and underground tunnels, planetary surfaces, and asteroids. 
•    Definition of immediate needs and scientific priorities for the deployment of single and heterogeneous multi-robot teams for Earth and Space. 
•    Recent findings and developments in the fields of single and multi-agent robot localization, mapping, coordination, communication, task planning, sampling, and cooperative sensing, learning and decision making. 
•    Presentation of novel mobile robotic concepts and prototypes for the exploration of unconstructed, dynamic environments. 
•    Presentation and lessons learned from the development and field testing of single and heterogeneous multi-robot teams. 
•    Commercial ventures in the field of multi-robot cooperation.

This topical collection is connected with the Workshop on “Heterogeneous multi-robot cooperation for exploration and science in extreme environments” to be hold in ICRA -2023 in London (May 26 – Jun 2, 2023).

How to submit your paper: 

1. The scope of paper should be related to the special issue’s themes;
2. Plagiarism is strictly forbidden;
3. The paper should satisfy at least one of the following criteria:
originality of topic, novel methods or models, high quality of results, scientific advances in the field, innovation, high potential for technological development, practical solutions, logic and
rational analysis, unbiased analysis, new insights
4. Presentation fluency/complete
5. No conflict between authors and reviewers

All submissions must be original and may not be under review by another publisher. Interested authors should consult the journal’s “Submission Guidelines” at
Articles can be submitted through Editorial Manager:
The special issue is created as submission questionnaire in the system. When you submit your paper you will be asked if your paper belongs to a special issue. If you answer yes, a pull down menu prompts up where you can select the title of the special issue to which you are submitting your paper. 
Please indicate in your cover letter that you wish your manuscript to be considered for the special issue on "Robotics for exploration and science in extreme environments". All submitted papers will be reviewed as soon as they are received. Accepted papers are published Online First until the complete Special Issue is published.

Guest Editor biographies: 

Prof. Dr. Miguel Olivares-Mendez is a tenured Assistantmendez Professor of Space Robotics and a Senior Research Scientist at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust of the University of Luxembourg. He leads the Space Robotics Research Group (SpaceR), the LunaLab and the Zero-gravity Lab.
Olivares-Mendez received his Eng. Degree in Computer Science from the University of Malaga in 2006, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Robotics and Automation from the Technical University of Madrid in 2009 and 2013 respectively. During his PhD he was visitor researcher on EPFL (Switzerland) and ARCAA-QUT (Australia). He was awarded with the 2013 Best Ph.D. Thesis award by the European Society for Fuzzy Logic and Technology (EUSFLAT). In May 2013 he joined the Interdisciplinary Center for Security Reliability and Trust (SnT) at the University of Luxembourg (Uni.Lu), as Associate Researcher in the Automation & Robotics Research Group. In December 2016 he became Research Scientist and main responsible of the research activities on mobiles robotics in the Automation & Robotics Research Group at the SnT-University of Luxembourg.
He is currently the main supervisor of 11 PhD students and 7 PostDocs. He has published over 120 peer-reviewed publications. His main research interests are Aerial, Planetary and Orbital Robotics for Autonomous Navigation, Situational Awareness, Perception, Machine Learning, and multi-robot interaction in autonomous exploration, inspection, and operations. He is an associate editor of IROS, ICRA and ICUAS conferences and the Journal of Intelligent & Robotics Systems (JINT), Frontiers on Space and Field robotics and the International Journal of Robotics Research (IJRR).

Dr. David Rodriguez is a Research Scientist at the EPFL Spacerodriguez Center, currently responsible for EPFL’s Lunar Hub and leading the center’s efforts in lunar research and technology development with projects spanning from fast off-road autonomous navigation to innovative robotic systems for the exploration of extreme environments. He also leads projects on the development of new space instrumentation and on the subject of active deorbiting of defunct satellites, and he supervises the activities of the students associations related to space at EPFL.

Formerly he held several positions as a researcher for the Automation & Robotics Section of the European Space Agency and as a visiting scientist for the Institute of System Dynamics & Control of the German Aerospace Center. He holds a Bachelor & Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Carlos III University of Madrid, a Master’s Degree in Space Studies from the International Space University, and a PhD in Robotics from Tohoku University.

Prof. Dr. Raj Thilak Rajan is a tenured assistant professor withrajan the Signal Processing Systems (SPS) group, at the Faculty of EEMCS at the Delft university of technology (TUD), and is the Co-director of the Delft Sensor AI Lab. He received his Ph.D. in 2016 from TUD, and obtained his M.Sc. (class first) and B.Sc. (with distinction) in electronic sciences from University of Pune, India in 2006 and 2004 respectively. Previously, he held research positions with diverse responsibilities at IMEC (Eindhoven, 2015-2018), University of Twente (Enschede, 2014-2015), ASTRON (Dwingeloo, 2008-2014), CERN (Geneva, 2007-2008), and Politenico di Bari (Bari, 2007-2008). 

Dr. Rajan is an IEEE Senior member, an elected member of the IAF-SCAN (International Astronautical Federation - Space Communications And Navigation) committee, the IEEE ASI (Autonomous Systems Initiative), and a Board member of the Netherlands Space Society (NVR). He is an Associate Editor for the IEEE Open Journal of Signal Processing (IEEE-OJSP) and is a reviewer for various signal processing and aerospace journals and conferences. His research interests lie in statistical machine learning and optimization, with applications to distributed autonomous sensing systems.

Kostas Alexis is Full Professor at the Department of Engineeringkostas2 Cybernetics of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Highlights of his research include leading Team CERBERUS winning the DAPRA Subterranean Challenge and a host of contributions in the domain of resilient robotic autonomy – in perception, planning and control including learned navigation policies. Earlier research has included contributions in setting the endurance world-record for UAVs in the below 50kg class with AtlantikSolar flying continuously for 81.5 hours. Since becoming professor, initially in the US and then in Norway, he has been the PI for a host of grants from NSF, DARPA, NASA, DOE, USDA, Horizon Europe, the Research Council of Norway and other public and private sources.


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