February 2012

Miniature Autonomous Reconnaissance Vehicle (MARV) 2007

I thought I'd share another project from a few years back. Back in late 2007 I just finished up my third DARPA Grand Challenge Event (as an author of the pre-event simulator and real-time tracking software used to run and judge the event -- which unfortunately precluded me from participating on a team). So I started thinking it might be nice to build my own (albeit small sized) bot -- starting with tele-robotic capabilities and stepping up the level of autonomy. I ran across a nice R/C HumVee platform. What intrigued me was that it had a nice gun port at the top which I thought I might be able to nicely convert into a web cam mount. An old Creative Web cam fit nicely with sufficient room underneath for a servo driven pan-tilt system. Also, I wanted to use WiFi to communicate with it and I was able to rig a nice WiFi antenna on the rear of the vehicle where one might normally find a radio antenna.  Beyond the camera, I otherwise wanted to avoid mounting sensors on the upper body.  I chose the Qwerk from Charmed Labs as the main processor unit.   Both the WiFi and camera utilized the USB capabilities of the Qwerk. The status LEDs of the Qwerk were also visible through one of the front windows.  I also had a hidden RJ45 network jack just under the back of the vehicle in case I wanted a direct connection during development.  I was also able to take advantage of the software developed on the TeRK project at CMU for the tele-robotics as they built their platform around the Qwerk as well.  I used audio out to deliver status and feedback (and for direct voice audio out) -- initially starting with a small speaker (shown in an early inside photo) and stepping up to one of the larger heavier speakers (the same as shown with the musical book project).  The large speaker just fit under the front hood.  The first video shows the vehicle driving tele-robotically around the office and the second shows the vehicle's own view of another run (OK, this was an early tele-robotic run and my driving skills weren't as fully developed ;-) ).  I've watched with interest as other competitions focusing on smaller scale autonomous model vehicles (like this one) have been organized -- like the one SparkFun runs.