New York Patent of the Month – November 2022

Exploratory space robots may be sent on interplanetary missions with the goal of collecting samples and gathering data. Ofcourse, in order to collect a sample, the robot needs an arm capable of scooping, grabbing, and picking. This sounds simple on the surface, but the arms rely on complex robotic mechanisms to interact with soil and rock and adjust for a different planet’s gravity and atmosphere. Honeybee Robotics, Ltd. has designed a new collection system for these interplanetary robots that better supports the interplanetary conditions.

Honeybee Robotics, an R&D and engineering company recently acquired by Blue Origin, has dedicated decades of time into designing and building unique solutions for robots on Earth and in space. In fact, Honeybee started working with NASA in 1986 and has contributed to consistent innovations in planetary research ever since.

Their recently patented sample collection system can be coupled to a robot’s arm and removes the need for the arm to be able to scoop and dig. The device allows for robotic arms to be made with fewer degrees of freedom and fewer complexities. 

Designed with a gas delivery system, the sampler uses compressed gas released from a series of nozzles to dislodge rocks, soil, snow, and other sample materials from the surface. The gas blows the sample towards a collection container. In the simplest description, the design acts like a vacuum cleaner, using nitrogen or other gasses to pull the sample material into the container.

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