Become a Mast Master

February 19, 2020

by

Malek Murison

From Mars to Fukushima, rovers give research teams the ability to gather data in challenging environments and explore new terrain without putting people in harm’s way. But whatever cameras and sensors you’re sending into the unknown, a rover’s data-gathering capabilities are only as effective as the practicality of their positioning on the robot. In other words, your rover’s eyes and ears need to be high enough off the ground to be useful. 

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University, Maas Digital LLC

That’s why many of the most famous rovers ever built, from Opportunity to Curiosity, rely on sophisticated masts. These provide the height and manoeuvrability for sensors to gather the data you need. A mast can be critical in helping your rover carry out its primary function, but we know that working with robots isn’t always that simple. Maybe you’ve been focusing on the nuts and bolts of the ground unit to start with. Or maybe your need for a mast has only just become apparent.   

Either way, we get that developing robotic solutions is an evolving process and that integrating a mast may not be a priority until your project is well underway. Lucky for you, that’s something we can help with. 

3d-printed robot components
Leo Mast in Prusa Slic3r

Leo Rover’s Camera Mast Tutorial

We’ve put together a tutorial that shows you how to 3D-print, build and integrate a mast for your rover. It covers everything you need, from affordable parts and G-codes to detailed assembly instructions. 

Our mast was inspired by the system used on NASA's Opportunity rover. It’s able to rotate the camera 360 degrees and sits more than 27cm above the top of the rover. The process is easy to follow and no specialist knowledge is needed.  

We’ve even included a sample web UI for the camera mast, which gives you access to a control panel so you can operate the mast remotely.  

You can take a look at the whole tutorial for free, here

This mast tutorial is designed to work with our very own Leo Rover, but you can integrate it with other platforms, too. It’s one of many DIY guides you can find in Leo Rover Docs, which feature a range of step-by-step rover add-ons from GPS units to LiDAR sensors. 

Building your own rover?

Just like assembling your own mast, building and programming your own robot doesn’t have to be an expensive headache. The Leo Rover is designed to be a rugged, affordable base you can work with to develop solutions and prove concepts. It’s open-source and built on RaspberryPi, so the functionality is totally up to you. You can find out more here.

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