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[DPRG] DPRG Spring 2008 Outdoor Robot Challenge 10 May 08: update

Subject: [DPRG] DPRG Spring 2008 Outdoor Robot Challenge 10 May 08: update
From: Randy M. Dumse rmd at newmicros.com
Date: Sun Mar 16 12:52:19 CDT 2008

> One could also buy a used 1996 Saturn SL2 with A/C for that 
> price and use the $1495 left over to build a robot or two.

We had a pretty cool visitor Thursday, week before last. Kairos
Automoni folks stopped in with their HMMWV converted to remote
or autonomous control. You can see it here:
http://www.kairosautonomi.com/ The had entries in both the DARPA
GC's. They have taken very seriously the congressional mandate
that by 2015 1/3 of all military vehicles will be remotely
operated. Obvious to them, is the goal cannot be met, unless
existing vehicle designs can be retrofit to meet the
requirement.

Basically, they've come up with a box that will connect to any
existing vehicle and convert it to computer control. That's what
they used in their recent DARPA entry. Externally they have a
steering motor that clamps on to the back side of any steering
wheel. They also have a second box that has several built in
servo/actuators with cables so they can operate the brake,
accelerometer pedal, and a clutch if necessary with a fourth
servo. The four servo model can also interface to a tanks
differential drive levers. If you explore their videos you'll
even see they can operate a boat.

Their computers consist of an PC motherboard in the one box,
with an optional dash mounted external display, and a
ServoPod(TM) in the other box running the acutators. They have
fully embraced the design ideas of the ServoPod(TM), dynamically
downloading their program and installing it in the background,
and in the foreground, interactively querying the status of the
vehicle. They even keep their ServoPod(TM) source on the PC
side, and have the ability to modify the source, and reload the
operating code, essentially on-the-fly. They credit their
flexibility and ability to respond and do development in the
field to this interactivity. They say they couldn't have met
their goals without it.

So yes, you could convert your '96 Saturn to make a contest
entry. At the moment their system is a bit expensive, but you
could remove that and port it to another vehicle with less than
4 hours work. In fact, some special forces units are now looking
at the possibility. They like the idea of capturing an enemy
vehicle, converting it for remote control, and then sending it
back to where it came from. Think how suprized those guys would
be when "Ackmed" returns with a load full of the road side bombs
now armed and ready to return the favor intended to their camp! 

Anyway, it was very exciting to have Kairos Autonomi stop in,
show us their wonderful progress, and acknowledge just how
critical our boards had been to their development and success.

In other news, my UNI guys are just getting to motor control and
chasis building. They've been introduced to the idea of
steering. They still need to work out odometry and see it in
action, but they know the concepts now. We'll see. They're on
spring break this week. Hopefully when they get back, they'll
come up with a workable entry for at least a couple of the
Challenge's early stages.

Randy
www.newmicros.com

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