RAL Space Interview

Hi Guys and welcome, I am Philip English from Robophil.com and on this video we are doing an Interview with Aron Kisdi from RAL SpaceWe managed to speak to Aron at the IREX 2015 Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, Japan.

RAL Space, based at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), carries out an exciting range of world-class space research and technology development.  They have significant involvement in over 200 space missions and are at the forefront of UK Space Research. We managed to speak to Aron about RAL Space and a robot called Surveyor Rover!

Philip: Hi guys, Philip English, we’re on British Embassy stance here at the Japan show. We’re here today speaking to RAL Space and we’ve got Aron here, whose gonna give us a quick overview of some of the robots and RAL Space are working on. A very very interesting UK company, and so Aron can you introduce yourself and can you tell me a little bit more about RAL Space.

Aron: Of course, Hi my name is Aron Kisdi and I work at RAL Space STFC. Our main company goal is to design instrumentation for space craft missions, big science missions for European space agency, NASA and other countries aswell. But in my group, the autonomous systems group, we built robotic platforms to support planetary exploration and research into the noble technology that are needed for planetary exploration and in other autonomous navigation systems here on earth or out in the solar system.

Philip: Ok that makes sense, so RAL Space as we see, as you explain it, is plain to many different department and this is the autonomous side. What other department are there at RAL Space?

Aron: So within the space technology and engineering division, we also have mechanical engineers, thermal engineers, assembly, testing and integration for the actual space missions. Most of the other group focused on the hardware for the space craft and the instruments. We have earth alteration group and we space physics and data group and we also have ground station on site so we can talk to space missions.

Philip: Wow! Ok so host of different area all collaborating together to making a, I suppose a different types of project, different types of robot?

Aron: Yeah that’s right, we also have imaging group and in fact we produce most of the detectors for the high class science mission. Even NASA is buying the detectors from us for their space telescopes.

Philip: Alright, and then I supposed like once you’ve done the research, once you’ve developed the product and hopefully the end go is like sell it as a commercial product and sell it into the public

Aron: So we mainly focus on research and being part of one of the research councils, but now a days economical impact is key of every research project and we look how at down the line or the product can be used as a commercial product either in the industry or even sold to the general public and in many cases for education and we want to support education with our work and also with some of the technologies we developed. Even the application we want to explore that and make sure that we can interest young people in the science and engineering.

Philip: Right, so interesting. So do you know how big RAL Space is? Like people wise.

Aron: We have about 260 people in RAL Space

Philip: Ok and basicall Oxfordshire

Aron: Yeah that’s right, we’re in Oxforshire the closest city actually is Didcot, but the science campus is called Harwell Oxford. There are a lot of other things going on in the space and we have the new European space agency base. The first ESA base in the UK is there. We also have all the other STFC facilities like the diamond light source, the particle accelerator ICs’, we have Cryogenics research, high power laser research and the nuclear commissioning authority on site, as well as many start-up small companies.

Philip: Wow! Ok that’s really impressive, really impressive. So today we’re gonna have a look at one of the robots thats gonna come out and so we got it to your left. So what’s the name of this little fella?

Aron: So this robot is called the Surveyor, we designed it for outreach activities, when we go to schools or schools visit us we do a lot of work with the kids so we wanted some kind of fun, engaging platforms for them to use. But infact we are using a quite sophisticated electronic  board inside. This small board is driving all the function of the robot. This is the same electronics that we use on all our bigger platforms aswell.

Philip: Ok

Aron: So even though it’s a small fun robot it’s quite capable and you can program it to do various autonomous behaviour and even visual navigtion.

Philip: So awesome there aswell. It’s quite very interesting. So you guys build this, it got a special board and now you’re selling it as a product throughout the UK. What’s the price range and can you build it as a kit?

Aron: That’s a good question yeah. So we licensed this technology to a company called active robot, who is manufacturing it and retailing it for 300pounds and it comes as a flat back, your IKEA robot and you can build it quite easily, it takes maybe a couple of hours. We actually have instructional video on how to build aswell and how to come conduct up all the electronics. So it aims really on all the people who also want to thinker it afterwards, so we not actually using all the capability and all the output of the part, it is possible to add more components, more sensors without adding any electronics.

Philip: It expands out, ok and what sort of age range start with this be? I supposed, 10 years, 12 years up sort of thing or can it go lower than that?

Aron: It is more aimed at 12 years and upwards and maybe university students and so our initial idea is we offer a lot of support for people who wants to get started. There’s  Raspberry PI, there’s Arduino, there are great ways to learn about this stuff but maybe there’s not, well a lot of support for the next levels for someone who already knew the basics and now want to produce something nice and compact. They want to bring everything they have in Raspberry Pi and Arduino together into a quite small and nice platforms. And there’s just wasn’t anything that they can do , they had to design their own electronics, they want the next step so we wanted to offer as much functionality as possible in a very very small package.

Philip: Right. Brilliant, it sounds you guys at RAL Space are doing a brilliant, brilliant job and thank you and I’m gonna keep an eye on you guys and come back and go see you in the UK. But yeah thanks for the overview at RAL Space and thanks for the overview of that little kit and it looks like you guys in the future are gonna be developing a lot of stull for the UK and for the kids.

Aron: Absolutely, this is just the start, kinda, of the first little guy but we have a few more robots in the plans and hopefully will be coming out soon.

Philip: Ok brilliant, so thanks so much I appreciate it.

Aron: Thank you very much and enjoy the show.

Philip: Ok

Brilliant Thanks Guys, I hope you enjoyed the interview and I want to say a big thank you to Aron Kisdi from RAL Space, for his time and  the interview.

If you want to learn more about the RAL Space I have put in links below, for your review.

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