Press Release 057/2022

Exploring Alien Worlds with Robotic Teams: Test Mission on Mt. Etna

Researchers Have Linked Autonomous Machines So They Can Work Together to Solve Complex Problems; the Media Can Follow the Mission Online
Conditions similar to those on the Moon or Mars can be found on Mt. Etna, where researchers are testing robotic swarms with which they plan to explore alien worlds in the future. (Photo: Sean Kille, KIT)
Conditions similar to those on the Moon or Mars can be found on Mt. Etna, where researchers are testing robotic swarms with which they plan to explore alien worlds in the future. (Photo: Sean Kille, KIT)

High-performance teams can reach goals where individuals fail despite outstanding skills. Scientists from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and other research institutes are applying this principle to robotics. In the future, they aim to explore unreachable places like the Moon or Mars with specialized teams of robots. In the Helmholtz Future Project ARCHES, such teams of robots work as “virtual arms and eyes” of humans. Now they are putting their abilities to the test during the “Space” demo mission on the Sicilian volcano Mt. Etna from June 28 to July 1, 2022.

The aim of ARCHES (which stands for Autonomous Robotic Networks to Help Modern Societies) is to assemble teams of interconnected robots that can independently set up equipment or take samples in hostile environments like Mars or the seafloor. Capabilities planned for the machines include grasping and manipulating objects previously unknown to them, adapting to changing surroundings, and assigning and coordinating tasks within the team. The tests in Sicily are intended to demonstrate what has been achieved so far. Etna’s volcanic landscape offers geological conditions similar to those on the Moon and Mars, making it a good test environment. The German Aerospace Center heads the ARCHES project and is coordinating the demo mission.

Researchers at KIT’s Institute for Control Systems (IRS) developed a robotic arm as a haptic human-machine interface. “It enables people and machines to jointly drive a rover across Etna’s volcanic landscape,” says Sean Kille of IRS. In addition, various robotic swarms, coordinated via planning algorithms or controlled by humans, will go on exploration missions. In a further mission, a humanoid hand developed at KIT’s Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics will autonomously gather rock samples (GEO MISSION I).

Notice to the media: The media are invited to attend the Space demo mission online. Please register with Katja Lenz ( by Friday, June 24, 2022. You will receive a link to the video conference system with details about the schedule. Project staff will be available for interviews on request.

Further information is already available on the DLR’s special ARCHES page:

Forschende des KIT auf dem Ätna
KIT researchers have developed a control system with which astronauts can drive a rover over rough terrain on other planets. (Photo: Sean Kille, KIT)

Livestream from the ILA in Berlin

At 12:30 pm CEST on Saturday, June 25, 2022, on the DLR livestream we will hand off live to Mt. Etna in Sicily from our stand at the ILA Berlin Air Show. In the live broadcast, researchers will explain the project and the science behind it. You can use this link for the livestream:


The German Aerospace Center heads the Helmholtz Future Project ARCHES. The Space demo mission is being jointly operated in Catania with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the European Space Agency. Other partners in the project are the Alfred Wegener Institute – Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research and GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel.

More information:

Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 10,000 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,800 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

mex, 23.06.2022

Margarete Lehné
Chief Press Officer (acting)
Phone: +49 721 608-41105
Fax: +49 721 608-43658
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Contact for this press release:

Dr. Felix Mescoli
Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608 41171
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