Small, agile rovers for harsh outdoor environments offer good potential to support rescue teams in emergency operations.
For such exploration purposes the outdoor MERLIN rovers have been developed in tracked and wheeled versions for the
weight class between 10 and 20 kg. Those vehicles can achieve velocities up to 50 km/h. Therefore the drive assistance
system has to provide the functionalities to perform safe and efficient tele-operations in combination with autonomous
reaction capabilities. The tele-operator can select appropriate levels of autonomy, ranging from warning signals to
autonomous reactions of the vehicle's on-board data processing system, if an endangering situation is not anticipated.
Implemented features include detection of obstacles in the path, as well as an adaptation of speed appropriate to terrain
roughness and slope, but also to path curvature. An autonomous return to the initial position is to be realized, when the
telecommunication contact to the tele-operator has been lost. This paper addresses the implemented sensor and data
processing techniques to handle those tasks in a robust way. Results from extensive tests in various environments will be
reported. In particular the results from the C-ELROB 2007 competition, the European Land Robotics trial, will be
reported, where the Outdoor MERLIN was the winner of the urban terrain challenge.