While the Mars rover Curiosity may have attracted much of the world's attention of late, there are some equally impressive Earth-bound robot rovers deserving of some column inches. One such vehicle is China's Polar Rover, which harnesses the wind for power courtesy of a top-mounted HoYi! turbine from New York's Urban Green Energy (UGE) as it explores the Antarctic vastness, documenting effects that global warming is having on the continent.
Though it's not the first time that autonomous robots have been let loose on vast white expanses – the solar-powered Cool Robot and the more recent Yeti, for example – Beijing Aeronautics and Astronautics University's 1.8 x 1.2 x 1.6 meter (5.9 x 3.9 x 5.2 ft), 300 kg (661 lb) satellite-controlled autonomous Polar Rover is the first to have its batteries charged by wind power. The research vehicle made its maiden voyage last month and has already clocked up an impressive 2,500 km (1,553 miles).
The Polar Rover is equipped with atmospheric sensors, a snow sampler, and geography and geology analyzers. It's capable of ice and snow terrain identification and assessment, and can tackle obstacles as high as 0.5 meters (1.6 ft). Thanks to UGE's 1.3-meter (4.2-ft) tall vertical axis wind turbine, its automated driving system can run round-the-clock in various challenging conditions (including sub-zero temperatures, polar winds, geomagnetic interference, and cosmic rays).
Deployment of the Polar Rover by the Kunlun Polar Research Team, headed by Professor Tianmiao Wang of the School of Mechanical Engineering and Automation, Beihang University, Beijing sees UGE's renewable energy products now being used in all seven continents.