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9 May 2006 Mobility of lightweight robots over snow
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Snowfields are challenging terrain for lightweight (<50 kg) unmanned ground vehicles. Deep sinkage, high snowcompaction resistance, traction loss while turning and ingestion of snow into the drive train can cause immobility within a few meters of travel. However, for suitably designed vehicles, deep snow offers a smooth, uniform surface that can obliterate obstacles. Key requirements for good over-snow mobility are low ground pressure, large clearance relative to vehicle size and a drive system that tolerates cohesive snow. A small robot will invariably encounter deep snow relative to its ground clearance. Because a single snowstorm can easily deposit 30 cm of fresh snow, robots with ground clearance less than about 10 cm must travel over the snow rather than gain support from the underlying ground. This can be accomplished using low-pressure tracks (< 1.5 kPa). Even still, snow-compaction resistance can exceed 20% of vehicle weight. Also, despite relatively high traction coefficients for low track pressures, differential or skid steering is difficult because the outboard track can easily break traction as the vehicle attempts to turn against the snow. Short track lengths (relative to track separation) or coupled articulated robots offer steering solutions for deep snow. This paper presents preliminary guidance to design lightweight robots for good mobility over snow based on mobility theory and tests of PackBot, Talon and SnoBot, a custom-designed research robot. Because many other considerations constrain robot designs, this guidance can help with development of winterization kits to improve the over-snow performance of existing robots.
© (2006) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
James H. Lever and Sally A. Shoop "Mobility of lightweight robots over snow", Proc. SPIE 6230, Unmanned Systems Technology VIII, 623026 (9 May 2006); doi: 10.1117/12.664680;

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