Development of a Mobile Modular Robotic System, R2TM3, for Enhanced Mobility in Unstructured Environments
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Limited mobility of mobile ground robots in highly unstructured environments is a problem that inhibits the use of such robots in applications with irregular terrain. Furthermore, applications with hazardous environments are good candidates for the use of robotics to reduce the risk of harm to people. Urban search and rescue (USAR) is an application where the environment is irregular, highly unstructured and hazardous to rescuers and survivors. Consequently, it is of interest to effectively use ground robots in applications such as USAR, by employing mobility enhancement techniques, which stem from the robot’s mechanical design. In this case, a robot may go over an obstacle rather than around it. In this thesis the Reconfigurable Robot Team of Mobile Modules with Manipulators (R2TM3) is proposed as a solution to limited mobility in unstructured terrains, specifically aimed at USAR. In this work the conceptualization, mechatronic development, controls, implementation and testing of the system are given. The R2TM3 employs a mobile modular system in which each module is highly functional: self mobile and capable of manipulation with a five degree of freedom (5-DOF) serial manipulator. The manipulator configuration, the docking system and cooperative strategy between the manipulators and track drives enable a system that can perform severe obstacle climbing and also remain highly manoeuvrable. By utilizing modularity, the system may emulate that of a larger robot when the modules are docking to climb obstacles, but may also get into smaller confined spaces by using single robot modules. The use of the 5-DOF manipulator as the docking device allows for module docking that can cope with severe misalignments and offsets – a critical first step in cooperative obstacle management in rough terrain. The system’s concept rationale is outlined, which has been formulated based on a literature review of mobility enhanced systems. Based on the concept, the realization of a low cost prototype is described in detail. Single robot and cooperative robot control methods are given and implemented. Finally, a variety of experiments are conducted with the concept prototype which shows that the intended performance of the concept has been met: mobility enhancement and manoeuvrability.