New miniature rescue robot for Warwick Mobile Robotics

Warwick Mobile Robotics (WMR) is an ongoing group research project carried out by a team of fourth year undergraduate students at the University of Warwick. This project is jointly run by the School of Engineering and Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG). WMG are an institution within the University of Warwick, dedicated to improving organisational competitiveness through the application of technological innovation. maxon motor uk have been involved with WMR on several projects and are delighted to sponsor the team again for 2015.

This year the project is being run by eight final year Engineering students as part of their MEng Engineering degree. The students each bring different backgrounds to the project, including students on degree streams from Electrical and Systems Engineering to Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering.

Each year a team develops an urban search and rescue (USAR) robot designed to navigate disaster zones such as a collapsed building. The purpose of the robot is to locate and help victims using tele-operation, removing emergency service personnel from unnecessary danger.

This year the WMR team is developing a completely new miniature urban search and rescue (M-USAR) robot. An advantage of an M-USAR is that it is able to fit into smaller areas inaccessible by emergency personnel, allowing better exploration of a hazardous environment. When complete, a rescue robot on this scale will be a first for the University of Warwick.

In past years WMR have attended the European RoboCup Competition. The aim of this contest is to promote research and development into physical robotic agents for disaster search and rescue. The competition helps to increase awareness of the challenges involved in search and rescue applications, provide objective evaluation of robotic implementations in representative environments and promote collaboration between researchers. The competitors are given a scenario, such as a devastated building, and the robot has to scout out the area and find as many simulated victims as possible. They have to find their targets, determine their situation, state and location and then report back their findings. Points are scored through mapping of the arena, good mobility over the obstacles and victim identification using visual, thermal and audio equipment.

Past achievements at the European RoboCup competition includes finishing in second place in 2012, first place in 2010 and Best in Class for Mobility for 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009. In 2013, the WMR team achieved 10th place at the World RoboCup competition and were the only UK entry. This year WMR is not attending the RoboCup competition as the new robot will not be developed enough to enter. The robot is, however, being designed with the competition rules in mind. This will allow the team to create an excellent platform M-USAR robot which can be developed by the 2015/16 team for the competition in 2016.

Inspiring the next generation of engineers and roboticists

Publicity this year has come from Outreach and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activities to showcase the robot as an educational platform, helping to inspire the next generation of engineers and roboticists. Most notably, WMR had a stand at the Midlands Imagineering Fair (Coventry Ricoh Arena, November 2014) and the Warwick Engineering Society Technology Conference (University of Warwick, January 2015).

The new M-USAR robot is driven using two of Maxon's EC - 4 pole 22 90W brushless motors (part number 323217). Each motor is connected to a GP 32 C planetary gearhead (part number 166945) offering a 123:1 reduction in motor output speed. This generates the required torque to allow the robot to negotiate difficult obstacles. The high motor efficiency (88 per cent) makes maximum use of the available battery power.

Notable design aspects and achievements of the 2014/15 robot are:

  • The robot is smaller than any search and rescue robot designed by WMR before, fitting into a 508mm × 393mm × 266mm envelope of space
  • The chassis uses lightweight extruded aluminium beams; this allows easy chassis assembly and modification whilst maintaining a strong design
  • The track design has been simplified to a tank style to improve robot reliability whilst still allowing a high level of manoeuvrability
  • A sensor array has been put together to help map the arenas and identify victims. This includes CO2 and infra-red sensors, front and rear-facing cameras, speaker and microphone and a LIDAR mapping sensor
  • A suspension system has been designed to improve manoeuvrability and traction over difficult terrain
  • Dynamic tensioning has been designed into the tracks to reduce the risk of tracks going slack and coming off the robot
  • The 2mm thick aluminium shell is designed to act as a heat sink for the internal components. A fan helps to distribute the heat within the robot evenly
  • An Xbox control pad is used to control the robot via Wi-Fi for intuitive driving control
  • High-quality Maxon Motor gearheads and motors have been used to drive the tracks (one motor for the left track and one motor for the right track) to improve robot reliability

The robot is still being developed with the aim of manufacturing it before Easter 2015. Testing will then be carried out in house at the University of Warwick to evaluate the robot's capabilities.

Sponsors this year have included MakerBeam (www.makerbeam.eu) as well as maxon motor UK (www.maxonmotor.co.uk). Supporters are required for next year's team and if you would like to offer some expertise or funding, please get in touch with the team by emailing warwickmobilerobotics@gmail.com. Further information about WMR can be found at www.mobilerobotics.warwick.ac.uk or www.facebook.com/WMRobotics.

maxon

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Finchampstead
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+44 (0)118 9733337

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www.maxongroup.co.uk

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