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The State of Robotics – February 2021

This article was last updated 3 years ago.

And that was February! A month where a rover showed what perseverance means and a small drone what ingenuity looks like. February will be remembered as the month where two robots landed on Mars, telling us all to “dare mighty things”. 

Perseverance and Ingenuity 

Do you want to know what Mars sounds like? Well, here you can find the first audio recording from Perseverance

On the back of this robot, there is a plaque that pays tribute to all the rovers that landed before, starting in 1997 with Sojourner, an 65 cm and 11.5 Kg robot. Today, his successor weighs 900 Kg and 3 m. 

Perseverance is a science laboratory on wheels. The robot has 23 cameras, including the Mastcam-Z (to collect high-definition video, panoramic colour and 3D images), the SuperCam (to identify the chemical composition of rocks and soils), PIXL (to measure the chemical makeup of rocks at a very fine scale) and SHERLOC (to detect minerals, and organic molecules).

The rover’s warm electronics box (WEB), keeps computer, electronic, and instrument systems protected and temperature controlled. A Radiation-hardened central processor can be found inside the WEB. It operates at up to 200 megahertz speed, which is 10 times the speed of Spirit and Opportunity. In addition to the WEB, the computer contains a special memory to tolerate the extreme radiation environment.

Using commands transmitted in a command sequence, the rover’s team back on Earth can take pictures, drive, and operate the instruments from Perseverance. The rover will gather samples from Martian rocks and soil using its drill. The mission aims to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and sediment in tubes for potential return to Earth by future missions. 

Conversely, Ingenuity is the first robot to demonstrate powered flight on Mars. Known as the mars helicopter, Ingenuity landed attached on the belly of the rover. The robot weighs 1.8 kg, and its blades can reach 2,400 rpm. Equipped with computers, navigation sensors, and two cameras, the robot can operate autonomously. 

The planet has about one-third of Earth gravity, but its atmosphere is just 1% as thick. This makes it much harder to generate lift. NASA aims to perform a series of test flights beginning sometime in the spring. 

ROS Kinetic and Gazebo End Of Life

ROS 1 Kinetic is reaching its end of support, together with Ubuntu Xenial. Do you want to know what your options are? Have a look at our latest blogs
or get in touch to learn more about ROS ESM.

Gazebo 7, the robot simulator, is also now officially end-of-life. Never fear, though, Gazebo version 11 picks up where version 7 left off…and so much more! Don’t run on unsupported hardware, migrate off Gazebo 7 now!

Laws of Robotics?

It had to happen. Someone decided to mount a paintball gun on our beloved Spot robot. But there’s a great outcome: this has rekindled the important discussion of robot ethics: who is responsible for keeping robots on the right path? Check out this well-written article from IEEE on the topic.

If you think that ethics in robotics is just a trivial topic, we invite you to think about it carefully. In the assistive robotics sector, several studies have talked about robotics ethics due to its implications in ubiquitous surveillance, patient autonomy, non-human therapy, deception and AI interpretability. Robotics startups should keep these concerns and challenges in mind since they have a direct impact on their final users. 

Furthermore, regulation around these topics is here to help us design better robots. For instance, the British Standard BS 8611:2016– Guide to the ethical design of robots and robotic systems is a tool for designers to undertake an ethical risk assessment of their innovations. 

Have a look. You might see that ethics is as important as robotics accuracy, security or safety.  

World MoveIt Day 2021

Last blog we talk about MoveIt2. MoveIt is the top-notch open-source motion planning software for ROS. It’s the software you need to get a robot arm moving. Today, we want to tell you about its annual conference, coming up soon, so don’t miss it! Sign up to join World MoveIt Day on March 10!.

Plus, get your MoveIt2 ROS simulator up and running in an LXD virtual machine with the image provided with MoveIt


Do you want to learn something new? Did you run out of uses to your GoPro? Capture your robot’s escapade by strapping a GoPro on it! Check out this open-source ROS driver for your GoPro camera


In this month, humanity reached another groundbreaking milestone. A robot reached Mars looking for remainders of ancient life, and with him the first interplanetary drone. Who knows what robotics will bring us next?  

Well, perhaps you know, and we’d love to hear about your ROS and or robotics-related project or startup. We want to feature it next month on our blog. Send a summary to, and we’ll be in touch. Thanks for reading.

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