The Robotic Advanced Testbed for Sensors, RATS, project started at IST in 2002 and is still an ongoing project. The concept and vehicle were originally funded by the US Army RDECOM, STTC and have since been donated to the Robotics Laboratory at UCF. The project consists of turning a six wheeled, skid steer, all terrain vehicle called a MAXII ATV into an autonomous platform. The vehicle is to be a testbed for sensors that need to be tested on an autonomous military type vehicle. The vehicle is to have an onboard computer and have ports and slots for various devices and sensors whether they need USB ports, serial ports, parallel ports, PCI slots, etc.
The vehicle was originally driven by a Vanguard 18hp engine with a transmission, fed through a belt system and used two levers to control steering and speed. The drive system uses chains that attach to the two middle wheels used to steer the vehicle. Each side of the vehicle consists of three wheels that are connected with a chain system to move each side of the vehicle by controlling only the middle wheel. Since then, the vehicle has been stripped of the original drive system and the team has modified the vehicle to become autonomous. The original engine was retained as well as the chain systems. The vehicle was given a hydraulic system for high torque to move the wheels. The vehicle was equipped with two Eaton hydraulic motors that are mated with two 20:1 gear reduction boxes. The team also has two 5:1 gear reduction boxes to gain more speed for the vehicle. The hydraulic system involves the two Eaton motors that are attached to the middle wheels with a chain system for speed and steering, a reservoir for all of the excess and a pump and motor to pump fluid through the system that is attached to the 18hp engine for power. This system will be what drives the vehicle. Currently the hydraulic system has to be re-hosed and some mechanical work still needs to be performed to drive the vehicle. The vehicle has driven before, but was re-modified because the previous drive system proved to be too slow.
The motors are controlled by two Vicor controllers. The controllers need 24 volts to power them. To move forward, the controllers have to be given a voltage from 0 to 10 volts and to move backwards the controllers have to be given a voltage from 0 to -10 volts. The entire vehicle will use four 12 volt batteries for electrical power. Two batteries will be tied in series producing 24 volts to power the on-board computer. The other two batteries will be used to power the controllers used to control fluid going to the motors to turn the vehicle or move it forward or backward. A Rabbit MPU will also be used in conjunction with an on-board computer to drive the vehicle and maintain its speed and steering. Various ports and slots will eventually be wired to accommodate any and all sensor suites that could be added. Currently the electrical system has been designed but not implemented.
The vehicle will use a Rabbit MPU for speed and steering control to the Vicor controllers. An on-board computer will also be used to control the vehicles sensors and drive capabilities. The Rabbit MPU code will be written in Dynamic C which is the Rabbit MPU language used to talk to the board. The rest of the vehicles code will be written in the C/C++ language. The computer used has a backplane design that allows different cards to be added or removed for various functions. The vehicle will eventually contain many different sensors to help with navigation, vision, object detection and avoidance, and path planning. Currently little code has been written for the platform.
Project is currently inactive: