A novel, multi-segmented magnetic crawler robot has been designed for ship hull inspection. In its simplest version, passive linkages that provide two degrees of relative motion connect front and rear driving modules, so the robot can twist and turn. This permits its navigation over surface discontinuities while maintaining its adhesion to the hull. During operation, the magnetic crawler receives forward and turning velocity commands from either a tele-operator or high-level, autonomous control computer. A low-level, embedded microcomputer handles the commands to the driving motors. This paper presents the development of a simple, low-level, leader-follower controller that permits the rear module to follow the front module. The kinematics and dynamics of the two-module magnetic crawler robot are described. The robot’s geometry, kinematic constraints and the user-commanded velocities are used to calculate the desired instantaneous center of rotation and the corresponding central-linkage angle necessary for the back module to follow the front module when turning. The commands to the rear driving motors are determined by applying PID control on the error between the desired and measured linkage angle position. The controller is designed and tested using Matlab Simulink. It is then implemented and tested on an early two-module magnetic crawler prototype robot. Results of the simulations and experimental validation of the controller design are presented.
Bomb-detecting dogs are trained to detect explosives through their sense of smell and often perform a specific behavior to indicate a possible bomb detection. This behavior is noticed by the dog handler, who confirms the probable explosives, determines the location, and forwards the information to an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team. To improve the speed and accuracy of this process and better integrate it with the EOD team’s robotic explosive disposal operation, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific has designed and prototyped an electronic dog collar that automatically tracks the dog’s location and attitude, detects the indicative behavior, and records the data. To account for the differences between dogs, a 5-minute training routine can be executed before the mission to establish initial values for the k-mean clustering algorithm that classifies a specific dog’s behavior. The recorded data include GPS location of the suspected bomb, the path the dog took to approach this location, and a video clip covering the detection event. The dog handler reviews and confirms the data before it is packaged up and forwarded on to the EOD team. The EOD team uses the video clip to better identify the type of bomb and for awareness of the surrounding environment before they arrive at the scene. Before the robotic neutralization operation commences at the site, the location and path data (which are supplied in a format understandable by the next-generation EOD robots—the Advanced EOD Robotic System) can be loaded into the robotic controller to automatically guide the robot to the bomb site. This paper describes the project with emphasis on the dog-collar hardware, behavior-classification software, and feasibility testing.
Skid-steer teleoperated robots are commonly used by military and civilian crews to perform high-risk, dangerous and critical tasks such as bomb disposal. Their missions are often performed in unstructured environments with irregular terrain, such as inside collapsed buildings or on rough terrain covered with a variety of media, such as sand, brush, mud, rocks and debris. During such missions, it is often impractical if not impossible to send another robot or a human operator to right a toppled robot. As a consequence, a robot tip-over event usually results in mission failure. To make matters more complicated, such robots are often equipped with heavy payloads that raise their centers of mass and hence increase their instability. Should the robot be equipped with a manipulator arm or flippers, it may have a way to self-right. The majority of manipulator arms are not designed for and are likely to be damaged during self-righting procedures, however, which typically have a low success rate. Furthermore, those robots not equipped with manipulator arms or flippers have no self-righting capabilities. Additionally, due to the on-board camera frame of reference, the video feed may cause the robot to appear to be on at level ground, when it actually may be on a slope nearing tip-over. Finally, robot operators are often so focused on the mission at hand they are oblivious to their surroundings, similar to a kid playing a video game. While this may not be an issue in the living room, it is not a good scenario to experience on the battlefield. Our research seeks to remove tip-over monitoring from the already large list of tasks an operator must perform. An autonomous tip-over prevention behavior for a mobile robot with a static payload has been developed, implemented and experimentally validated on two different teleoperated robotic platforms. Suitable for use with both teleoperated and autonomous robots, the prevention behavior uses the force-angle stability measure, previously experimentally validated, to predict the likelihood of robot tip-over and trigger prevention behaviors. A unique heuristic approach to tip-over avoidance was investigated, wherein a set of evasive maneuvers that an expert teleoperator might take are activated when the tip-over-likelihood estimate passes a critical threshold. This control approach was validated on an iRobot Packbot as well as on a Segway RMP 440. The heuristic laws demonstrated the advantage of alerting operators to a tip-over scenario and gave them more time to correct the situation, as well as the ability to automatically initiate recovery on the y". This research shows promise in preventing dangerous scenarios that could damage a robot and/or compromise its mission, thus saving lives. It further provides a good foundation for follow-on development involving the expansion and integration of the prevention-control algorithms, to include movable payloads, environment manipulation, 2D or 3D look-ahead laser sensing and mapping, and adaptive path planning.