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to avoid every little rock and rut, so
we know that the vehicle will have
to take a beating. We'll be happy
if we can just avoid the major, race
ending obstacles like the tank traps
and sheer drop-offs."
To help control the critical
steering and throttle functions, the
team turned to Galil's DMC-1414
single axis controller and drive
combination. It connects to an
Ethernet network, and is designed
to respond accordingly to the
approximately 2,500 GPS way-
points that are loaded into the
program of the vehicle's computer
system. These waypoints define
the course for the vehicle to follow.
In addition to being able to
follow the waypoints, Crittenden
says, "Each vehicle must have
the ability to `see' the terrain
ahead and identify the vari-
ous obstacles that are a part
of off-road driving." To
accomplish this, the vehicle
uses two machine vision
camera systems and two laser range finders.
Team Mojavaton was drawn to Galil because of its
well-established record for controllers that deliver flawless
precision, accuracy and unending repeatability. "Galil's
controller and drive was very affordable and easy to pro-
gram. We especially loved the position tracking mode,
which is critically important because it has to make about
ten decisions per second about which way to go in order
to keep the vehicle steering in the right direction. Position
changes are truly made on the fly, and the Galil has per-
formed fabulously-bullet proof," adds Crittenden.
Galil Steers Team Mojavaton's
Autonomous Ground Vehicle
The sci-fi vision of robotic, unmanned vehicles is more
reality than fantasy. There are remote-controlled mini-subs
exploring the deep seas, Mars rovers transmitting stunning
images, and pilot-less, flying drones gathering surveillance
in hostile territories.
While incredibly advanced, this technology remains
tethered, albeit remotely, to a controlling, human source.
Now, science wants machines that can operate and think
entirely on their own, just like R2D2 of Star Wars fame.
As a result, the US Department of Defense sponsors
the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
Grand Challenge, which encourages the development of
autonomous ground based vehicles that can eventually
replace manned vehicles used in dangerous missions. A
$2 million prize is awarded to the winning team whose
vehicle travels the fastest in less than ten hours across 175
miles of treacherous roads and trails.
Rising to the challenge is Jim Crittenden, who formed
Team Mojavaton to convert and enter a Nissan Xterra. The
team is experienced in custom machine building, design,
vision systems, control systems, electronics, programming
and project management.
"Since this event will be very hard on every vehicle,
we placed a high premium on reliability and survivability,"
said Crittenden. "Our autonomous systems won't be able
Galil's controller and drive
helps steer manless road
vehicle for DARPA Grand