Planetary Robotics

Helelani planetary rover

Helelani Rover

Meet our 700-pound analog planetary rover, Helelani (“heavenly travels”). Helelani is equipped with a suite of instruments and imaging systems that can be controlled remotely, providing a mobile testing platform for planetary surface systems. Space agencies anywhere in the world can operate Helelani tele-robotically in the rugged terrain of high-fidelity planetary analog testing sites on Hawaiʻi  Island.

Helelani also provides an ongoing project for undergraduate students seeking hands-on experience in robotics, engineering, and programming. Students in the robotics track of our internship program work to advance and refine the hardware and software systems that operate Helelani. 


  • 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 UAV

Our Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) named Heʻe Manu (flying octopus) was originally developed as a pest-control project in partnership with the Hawaiʻi County Department of Research & Development. We designed an integrated pesticide dispersion system that could be mounted on the UAV to treat hard-to-reach tree canopies. Heʻe Manu was built and programmed with help from our 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