Toward the ambitious long-term goal of a fleet of cooperating Flexible Autonomous Machines operating in an uncertain Environment (FAME), this thesis addresses several
critical modeling, design and control objectives for ground vehicles. One central objective was to show how off-the-shelf (low-cost) remote-control (RC) “toy” vehicles can be converted into intelligent multi-capability robotic-platforms for conducting FAME research. This is shown for two vehicle classes: (1) six differential-drive (DD) RC vehicles called Thunder Tumbler (DDTT) and (2) one rear-wheel drive (RWD) RC car called Ford F-150 (1:14 scale). Each DDTT-vehicle was augmented to provide a substantive suite of capabilities as summarized below (It should be noted, however, that only one DDTT-vehicle was augmented with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and 2.4 GHz RC capability): (1) magnetic wheel-encoders/IMU for(dead-reckoning-based) inner-loop speed-control and outer-loop position-directional-control, (2) Arduino Uno microcontroller-board for encoder-based inner-loop speed-control and encoder-IMU-ultrasound-based outer-loop cruise-position-directional-separation-control, (3) Arduino motor-shield for inner-loop motor-speed-control, (4)Raspberry Pi II computer-board for demanding outer-loop vision-based cruise- position-directional-control, (5) Raspberry Pi 5MP camera for outer-loop cruise-position-directional-control (exploiting WiFi to send video back to laptop), (6) forward-pointing ultrasonic distance/rangefinder sensor for outer-loop separation-control, and (7) 2.4 GHz spread-spectrum RC capability to replace original 27/49 MHz RC. Each “enhanced”/ augmented DDTT-vehicle costs less than 175 but offers the capability of commercially available vehicles costing over 500. Both the Arduino and Raspberry are low-cost, well-supported (software wise) and easy-to-use. For the vehicle classes considered (i.e. DD, RWD), both kinematic and dynamical (planar xy) models are examined. Suitable nonlinear/linear-models are used to develop inner/outer-loopcontrol laws.
All demonstrations presented involve enhanced DDTT-vehicles; one the F-150; one a quadrotor. The following summarizes key hardware demonstrations: (1) cruise-control along line, (2) position-control along line (3) position-control along curve (4) planar (xy) Cartesian stabilization, (5) cruise-control along jagged line/curve, (6) vehicle-target spacing-control, (7) multi-robot spacing-control along line/curve, (8) tracking slowly-moving remote-controlled quadrotor, (9) avoiding obstacle while moving toward target, (10) RC F-150 followed by DDTT-vehicle. Hardware data/video is compared with, and corroborated by, model-based simulations. In short, many capabilities that are critical for reaching the longer-term FAME goal are demonstrated.