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Improving Mobile Robot Step-Climbing Capabilities With Center-of-Gravity Control

[+] Author Affiliations
Krzysztof Skonieczny

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Gabriele M. T. D’Eleuterio

University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, Toronto, ON, Canada

Paper No. DETC2010-28482, pp. 1531-1538; 8 pages
  • ASME 2010 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 2: 34th Annual Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, Parts A and B
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada, August 15–18, 2010
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division and Computers in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4410-6 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3881-5
  • Copyright © 2010 by ASME


The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit will henceforth be a stationary science platform, as its current mobility capabilities have been unable to free it from a sand trap for several months. Mobility systems of future planetary exploration robots will need to reduce risk of entrapment, access more challenging terrain, and cover more ground than ever before. This work presents a novel center-of-gravity (CoG) control algorithm, designed to increase rover mobility over step obstacles. The control algorithm is applied to a mobile robot platform featuring a reconfigurable chassis / suspension system. The 6-wheeled platform is equipped with active wheel-walking degrees of freedom in addition to driving, steering, and passive suspension DoFs typical for such robots. The controller is based on a new concept introduced here, the Contact-Angle Adjusted Support Plane, and uses wheel-ground contact angles to place the CoG such that weight acting on wheels encountering difficult local terrain is reduced. Mobility analysis, using the detailed multibody dynamics simulator RCAST (Rover Chassis Analysis and Simulation Tool), shows that the control algorithm dramatically improves step-climbing ability. The CoG controller can increase the height of obstacle surmountable by a factor of 2 to 3. Wheel-step interaction modes, joint angle limits for wheel-walking DoFs, and other practical mechanical considerations are discussed in the context of a hardware prototype of the studied chassis design.

Copyright © 2010 by ASME



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