Unfolding CubeSat rover. Mission: construction on Mars and re-construction after natural disasters on Earth. Tele-op Headband control.

RDAS = Rapidly Deployable Automation System

This robot that I have built is the first of more modules- RDAS Drive.

For all of the source files, see the Steps section below

Video of latest prototype!

How it works

The robot is unfolded from its transportation cube shape. The green pieces will eventually be solar panels to harvest some energy. The sides with the wheels touch down and move the robot. The distance sensor in front detects and obstacles and avoids them.

Tele-operational control from the human is possible with a hands-free wearable headband with haptic feedback. The headband tracks the movements of the human's head and moves the robot accordingly.


I've become interested in the problem of being able to rapidly deploy a system of automated movement. Instead of the objects around us being stationary, what if we could enable them to move around and interact with us. We could use robot modules that link together to combine steps of movements.

RDAS is my first try at this problem.

UPDATE! v0.4

v0.4 Preview

I've been working on an improved v0.4 for Fab11. Right before July 31st 11:59PM, it is working! Check it out!!!!

Vine vid: https://vine.co/v/eXYHabi7LPH


There are two main systems in RDAS:
*Motor system
*Sensor system (+ communications)


Arduino Pro Mini
2x 120:1 Micro gear motor
2x encoders
2x 10mm white leds
ultrasonic sensor
5mm blue led
some perf board...


6-32 3/8” screws
6-32 1/2” screws
6-32 hex nuts


PLA for sides, base, fins
TPE (NinjaFlex) for white flexible pieces

Step 1

3D Print the chassis

Download the .stl and Autodesk Inventor files here

Follow the Bill of Materials here for how many pieces to print and suggestions on how to print

Step 2

Assemble the chassis

Scroll down to the "Assembling" heading here for a rough guide

Step 3


RDAS uses a Motor board and a Sensor board, here are both Bill of Materials

Motor board:

gEDA and Gerbers



Sensor board:

gEDA and Gerbers



Step 4

Optional: Tele-op Headband

This step is optional- if you want to make the Tele-op Headband to control the robot!

Download the laser cut pieces template

(Note: Some of the pieces need to be duplicated, refer to photos on this page)

The Autodesk Inventor files are available here

Details about the material + laser cutter settings, and rough assembly procedure is available here

The code is available here

Step 5


The code for the Motor board is here

The code for the Sensor board is here

Note: This code was for the boards that were hand soldered with wire wrapping wire and perf board, so the pinouts in the code will be different than the pinouts listed in the BOM for the pcb boards



The goal of this is to eventually get the robots out in the field helping. It will take a long time with a lot of failures to get to that point. It’s all with another moonshot in mind: if the robots will be good enough for Earth, then what is stopping us from making them good enough for other planets as well. The robots could be tasked with starting to build structures on Mars, or go exploring, try to grow a plant (challenging in difficult environments).

Another one of the goals of RDAS is to have groups developing on it, so that the robots could be deployed locally if there is a scenario where the robots can help. The experience could then be shared globally and go to all of the other labs working with RDAS, to improve an action plan for how the robots can be used to help in various scenarios.

Example mission

An example mission of this would be for use in natural disaster settings during the humanitarian efforts. The robot modules would be unpacked from a backpack, then configured and linked together to perform a task. Tasks can vary depending on the scenario, such as sorting supplies to go to a specific area, or even digging out areas to let standing water flow away from shelter locations. By having the robots help with tasks the effort is in parallel with the human, freeing up time for the human to do complex decision making jobs.

Being able to achieve the level of parallelization is a key part to the problem; the robots won’t be very helpful if they have to be controlled all the time. They have to be able to do their task as autonomously as possible and when there is human input they have to understand what is trying to be communicated.


Achieving the intended goals is going to be a lot of work and will take time and failures. Here are two important milestones that I'm working towards currently:

Generic RDAS Chassis Design

The first of which would be to create a generic RDAS chassis, based off of the CubeSat dimensions, but with a better way of folding and unfolding. With this, people would be able to add in their own devices to the sides of the cube, and have it fold inwards properly. The electronics would be an Arduino derivative, with easily pluggable ports for various peripherals.

The work done here with making RDAS Drive module is helpful towards going to this milestone.

Field Testing

The ultimate tests will be to see how well the robot modules perform outdoors, in the real environment. It has to be able to work! Trying, failing, fixing things, will be the way this milestone is accomplished.


Building the community around RDAS will be important to reach the people who would be interested in it and would use it.

One of the ways to get the project into the hands of developers would be to contact various Fab Labs and see if any of the members would be interested in working on it. If you are interested, leave a comment below!


Q: How can people help this project?

A: At this stage, a big help would be having people replicate this project. This way we will be able to find out the limitations and what works much faster. Leave a comment if you want to get involved!

Also having someone that has a milling machine for electronics and is willing to fabricate some of my experimental boards would be helpful too. (I don't have access to one yet, hopefully one day) It would be great to develop a board for RDAS that can be fabbable, without too many vias.

Discuss this Project on discuss.fablabs.io