Mecanum-Kinematics and Teach&Repeat-Technology for Stage Wagon mecanum drive

To realize innovative show concepts, heavy stage structures and stage prop needs to be moved reliably and precisely upon the stage. A few years ago these kind of transformations had to be done while the curtain is closed, because many staff members were needed. With the help of the stage wagon built by Gross Funk GmbH, it became possible to perfom transformations while the curtain is opened and with the help of the Teach&Playback-Technology, with a high repeat accuracy, too. This concept was further improved and therefore equipped with a mecanum-drive to enable maneuvrability in an other dimension.

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Trailer for the research project AMMCOA

For the research project AMMCOA of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, there is now a separate project trailer, which informs about the questions and objectives of this project. More detailed information can be found in our blog about this topic (only available in german language).

In its project section, Robot Makers GmbH primarily takes over the algorithms for the realization of innovative approaches for swarm robotics in agriculture and in the construction sector. Various scenarios are developed and then tested in practice. Another focus is on the possibilities of localization, which result from the newly developed technology. The subject area of precise and reliable localization is one of the main challenges in many applications of mobile automation.

The Robot Makers Running Team before the start to the B2RUN corporate challenge in the year 2017

B2RUN-Corporate Challenge: Strong team performance

After the first participation in the B2RUN-corporate challenge Kaiserslautern last year, the Robot Makers Running Team again took part in the running event in Kaiserslautern’s inner city this year. Thus, the six-kilometer route, which stretches from the SAKS hotel through the pedestrian zone over Barbarossa and Bismarckstrasse back to the Stiftsplatz, was tackled by eight brave runners.

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Robot Makers Running Team starts at the B2RUN-Corporate Challenge in Kaiserslautern

After our first participation in the B2RUN-Corporate Challenge last year, we will again face the challenge of the sporting spectacle on the 18th of May 2017 in our hometown. With nine runners our team is going to overcome the approximately five kilometer-long run through the Kaiserslautern city center. Our team starts in the last starting block at 6:30 pm at the Stiftsplatz in front of the SAKS-Hotel. Friends, patrons and partners are, of course, invited to support our team at the track!

The running team of the Robot Makers GmbH before the start

The Robot Makers Running Team before the start to the B2RUN-Corporate Challenge in 2016

Autonomous vineyard crawler will be discussed in the cvc-news

The autonomous vineyard crawler of the Robot Makers GmbH will be discussed in the current issue of the newsletter of the Commercial Vehicle Cluster Southwest, the so called cvc-news 01/2017. The task that has been implemented in this project, fits perfectly with the newly selected focus of the innovative commercial vehicle cluster – “Automated Commercial Vehicles for the Off-Road-Sector”.

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Outdoor environment detection processes – Part 1

For the implementation of modern assistance functions as well as the (partial) autonomy of utility vehicles, the vehicle – depending on intended application – must be in a position to localize itself in its environment, recognize obstacles in the planned driving route, and respond adequately to these. This can be achieved, for example, by stopping in front of the obstacle or circumventing it. In order to detect structures such as obstacles in the immediate environment, mobile machines must therefore have some degree of ability to “perceive” the immediate environment.

By now, there are various sensor systems, each based on different measuring principles, that compete with one another in so-called environment detection. There is no general answer as to which method is the best option, or whether a combination of different sensor systems (sensor fusion) makes sense. Depending on the type of application, what exactly the sensor should recognize has to be determined. Other important considerations include in what resolution the information should be available, in what type of environment the application takes place, or how expensive the sensor should be. These are just a few of the questions you have to ask yourself when selecting the best environment sensor technology for your application. So that you can get an overview of the most common processes in environment detection, we want to present them here briefly. In the first part of this article, we will look at the process of time-of-flight as well as radar technology.

Environment detection using infrared light: the time-of-flight camera

One means of environment detection consists of measuring distance using a time-of-flight camera (TOF camera). This type of camera uses a so-called photonic mixing device (PMD sensor) as an image sensor. This sensor operates on the time-of-flight principle for which the camera is named.

With this process, an infrared light signal is emitted that, in turn, is received by a sensor. Based on the runtime of the light and the known, constant speed of light, the distance of the object to the PMD sensor can be determined. The closer the object is to the PMD sensor, the shorter the measured light runtime. The further the object is away, the longer the runtime of the infrared rays.

Through the technology of the TOF camera, it is possible to measure this light runtime in pixels and thereby create a three-dimensional representation of the current scene. This data capture is so fast that even real-time requirements can be achieved with it.

TOF cameras are already being tested and applied in driver assistance systems or safety sensors in the automotive industry (pedestrian recognition, emergency brake assistance, etc.). The mobile robotics sector also uses this technology frequently, for example, to recognize obstacles or to follow individuals.

A TOF camera mounted on a tracked vehicle on a test drive to evaluate assistance systems and automation in wine growing

Old technology in new applications: radar

Radar stands for “Radio Detection and Ranging” and describes various localization and recognition processes that use electromagnetic waves. Here, we are thus dealing with a non-visual process for measuring distance. The origins of radar date to 1886 when Heinrich Hertz discovered that metal objects reflect radio waves. Christian Hülsmeyer subsequently worked on the subject of localization using these waves. In 1904, he applied for a patent for the first precursor to today’s radar systems, the telemobiloscope.

A radar device sends out bundled electromagnetic waves that an object within sight distance then reflects. These reflected radio waves are received back by the radar device and subsequently evaluated. In this manner, conclusions about the distance to an object, its direction and relative motion and, when considering consecutive measurements, even the speed of an object can be drawn.

A long-range radar of the type often used in automotive assistance systems

With radar devices used for environment detection, the frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) radar is generally employed. In contrast to impulse radar devices, this type of radar sends out a continuous signal, but constantly changes the transmission frequency. Most people are familiar with this process through “speed traps” set up by the police used extensively in law enforcement. In addition to measuring speed, such a radar also measures the distance of the speeding vehicle to the camera and triggers it just at the right moment.

Other applications for radar sensors include motion and (filling) level sensors, or use in adaptive cruise control systems for cars. In these, they detect the speed of and distance to the car driving ahead. Based on this information, the speed of your car can be modified, or emergency braking initiated.

Please also read the other articles of article series concering environment detection:
Part 2
Part 3

Driverless Vineyard Crawler is presented at the Agrartage Nieder-Olm

From 25th to 27th January 2017, our partner Niko Maschinenbau will present the driverless vineyard crawler to the visitors at the machine exhibition of the Agrartage Nieder-Olm. For the first time, the machine itself will be represented on the booth of our partner in Hall C, Stand 024. Robot Motors GmbH and Niko Maschinenbau would be really happy to welcome you there.

Thanks to the technology of the Robot Makers GmbH, this crawler vehicle is able to complete various care tasks in the vineyard completely autonomously. In contrast to other systems on the market, the machine doesn’t use the high-precision RTK-GPS. Most of the data used for navigation is provided by the “eyes” of the vehicle, so-called ambient environment sensors. In addition to independently running the rows in wine and fruit cultivation, the vehicle is also able to turn independently at the row exit and enter the next row. This allows complete plantations to be processed autonomously.

By eliminating the necessity of the highly accurate RTK-GPS signal, the system achieves greater robustness against signal fluctuations caused by shading (e.g. because of trees or precipices) and weather phenomena. In addition, the position offset arising by the slippage of the crawler while the transposition maneuver can be counterbalanced. This offset forces today’s systems, which are based on precisely predefined tracks, to come to a standstill.