Planetary Robotics

Helelani planetary rover


Helelani (or “Heavenly Travels”) is a 700-pound planetary rover equipped with a suite of instruments and imaging systems that can be controlled remotely. The rover’s open payload design offers a mobile testing platform for planetary surface systems. Space agencies anywhere in the world can pilot Helelani tele-robotically through the rugged terrain of our planetary analog test sites.

Helelani also serves as a hands-on technical project for undergraduate students seeking experience in robotics, engineering, and programming. Students in the robotics track of our internship program work to advance and refine the rover’s hardware and software systems. 


  • Manufacturer: Ontario Drive and Gear (ODG)
  • Model: Alpha Argo
  • Weight: 726 lbs (without avionics and additional equipment)
  • Power: 48V main system provided by two 24V battery systems
  • Additional Power Systems: 12V electronics, 12V payload

Control Capabilities

  • Hand-held radio controller
  • Remote operations using an internet connection


  • Voltage (for power systems)
  • Temperature (for motor surface and avionics enclosure)
  • GPS
  • IMU (accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer)
  • Motor RPM

Imaging Systems

  • Pan-Tilt Situational Awareness Camera
  • Front view Haz Camera
  • Rear view Haz Camera
  • Stereoscopic Imaging System
  • LiDAR

Heʻe Manu

Heʻe Manu (or “Flying Octopus”) is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that was originally developed as a pest-control project in partnership with the Hawaiʻi County Department of Research and Development. We designed an integrated pesticide dispersion system that could be mounted on the UAV to treat fire ant populations in hard-to-reach tree canopies. The octo-copter was built and programmed by student interns.

unmanned aerial vehicle


  • Manufacturer: DJI
  • Model: S1000
  • Weight: 4 Kgs (without pesticide dispersion system)
  • Thrust: 2.5 Kgs per rotor


  • Professional UAV octocopter
  • Retractable landing gear
  • Flight time: 15 minutes
  • Maximum flight load: Up to 11 Kgs