Robotic, unmanned vehicles and the associated technology, although advanced, remain limited by their need for a controlling, human source. The US Department of Defense sponsors the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Grand Challenge – one that encourages the development of autonomous ground-based vehicles. The purpose of this challenge is to ultimately find vehicles that can be used in place of manned vehicles for dangerous missions. The team whose vehicle can travel the fastest in less than 10 hours across 175 miles of treacherous roads and trails will win a $2 million prize.
Jim Crittenden, founder of Team Mojavaton, designed and converted a Nissan Xterra to meet this challenge. The team consists of individuals experienced in custom machine building, design, vision systems, control systems, electronics, programming, and project management. Understanding the nature of the tough terrain, Jim knew he needed a reliable and rugged vehicle.
Galil Motion Controller
Steering and throttle functions are critical when designing and operating an autonomous vehicle. This is why the team turned to Galil’s DMC-1414 single axis controller and drive combination. This controller connects to an Ethernet network and is designed to respond accordingly to the approximately 2,500 GPS way-points loaded into the program of the vehicles computer system. The GPS waypoints dictate the route for the vehicle to follow.
In addition to being able to follow a course, the vehicle must also be able to see the terrain ahead and identify potential obstacles. To do so, the vehicle utilizes two machine vision camera systems and two laser range finders.
Team Mojavaton chose to work with Galil based on their well-established record for controllers that deliver flawless precision, accuracy, and unending repeatability. The controller was cost-effective, easy to program, and offered position tracking mode, a crucial component as it has to make nearly 10 decisions per second regarding course and steering.
Electromate supplies Galil controllers like those utilized in autonomous vehicle applications. For more information, get a quote today.