Procus robotics

At the beginning of 2012, Procus ventured into field of robotics development. The main objective of the initial phase, was to meet all the challenges that such a development brings – all aspects of robot design: (functionality, electronics, mechanical and software) as well as finding appropriate suppliers and manufacturers. Having overcome many obstacles, the first robot of Procus Robotics has been successfully completed.

Spirit Junior is a six-wheeled mobile robot intended for research and development in the associated field of mobile robotics-real time control, artificial intelligence and machine vision. The similarity with the Spirit robot which has been exploring Mars recently - is not accidental. The rocker - bogie chassis with six wheels, each of which can be rotated by 70 degrees in any direction and also has its own drive, is the best machine to test the complex control algorithms in practice. Thanks to the chassis, the robot also performs well in more challenging terrain.

The picture shows graphically some of the many possibilities of movement:

  • Straight - forwards and backwards
  • Ackermann type steering
  • Point rotation, whether in the centre of the robot or elsewhere
  • Parallel movement in any direction

Architecture of the electronic robot system:

  • The router is a connecting means of the whole control system. The on-board computer, IP camera and an optional additional notebook are interconnected through the Ethernet. The router also shares the internet through a 3G module.
  • For local high - level control, a powerful Linux computer based on the ARM platform has been embedded into the robot. It collects data from sensors such as Kinect, GPS and high resolution cameras. In addition to processing the information in the sensors, it delivers it to the other parts of the system .
  • There is a place on the robot for a 15 - inch standard laptop, useful for processes which the on-board computer is unable to undertake. In addition to the extra computing power, it also offers the possibility for the use of technologies not available on the ARM platform (full. NET, CUDA).
  • A small single-board computer based on the PIC32 platform acts as an interface between the high-level and low-level control providing all the common industrial communication standards, such as RS232, RS485, I2C and TWI.
  • As standard, the robot contains GPS, an inertial unit with a compass, 6 encoders and 24 sonars. In combination with Kinect and the videocameras, this provides sufficient amount of information for safe navigation in the terrain.

Control System

The requirements for the control system have grown linearly with more and more complicated robots. The robot was designed from the beginning as fully autonomous. Achieving autonomy as well as a sufficient level of artificial intelligence is almost impossible, even with a relatively powerful on-board computer. Overloading of the processor by tasks such as image processing takes up time in preference of potentially more important tasks such as obstacle recognition and reaction. It also increases power consumption. However Cloud technologies offer almost unlimited computing power without any effect on the consumption of the robot. Modularity and scalability were the cornerstones in the design of the control system DAOCCS (Distributed Agent Oriented Cloud Control System).

The system provides freedom in the choice of programming paradigm, regardless of whether you select Multi Agent Access, carry out everything in one control loop, edit all data locally, or if you process complicated computing tasks on Cloud. To make work with the system easier, the SDK incorporates many help functions.

The basic unit of the system is Environment. Web services have also been specified as a means of communication with others, allowing the connection of systems, implemented in different languages that support this technology. The system is currently being built on the Java platform.

The diagram represents individual system components and the relationship between them.

  • One instance of CCS Environment runs on Cloud. This is the highest level of its own type. It contains information about all subordinated instances. In addition to solving complex tasks it can also contain agents for the implementation of multiple robots.
  • The CCS instance in the control computer of the robot typically contains sensor controllers and security agents which ensure the shortest possible delays.
  • If there are several computers on the robot that are able to start CCS, this instance is registered as the subordinated one of the main instance (CCS is cascaded). Such instances typically help the main instance with the data pre-processing from less important sensors.
  • Although the system was designed for autonomous control, it can also be used in teleoperation mode. This is currently available through a web interface or Android based devices.