Comparative Analysis of Lightweight Robotic Wheeled and Tracked Vehicle

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Virginia Tech

This study focuses on conducting a benchmarking analysis for light wheeled and tracked robotic vehicles. Vehicle mobility has long been a key aspect of research for many organizations. According to the Department of Defense vehicle mobility is defined as, "the overall capacity to move from place to place while retaining its ability to perform its primary mission"[1]. Until recently this definition has been applied exclusively to large scale wheeled and tracked vehicles. With new development lightweight ground vehicles designed for military and space exploration applications, the meaning of vehicle mobility must be revised and the tools at our disposal for evaluating mobility must also be expanded. In this context a significant gap in research is present and the main goal of this thesis is to help fill the void in knowledge regarding small robotic vehicle mobility assessment. Another important aspect of any vehicle is energy efficiency. Thus, another aim of this study is to compare the energy needs for a wheeled versus tracked robot, while performing similar tasks.

The first stage of the research is a comprehensive review of the state-of-the-art in vehicle mobility assessment. From this review, a mobility assessment criterion for light robots will be developed. The second stage will be outfitting a light robotic vehicle with a sensor suite capable of capturing relevant mobility criteria. The third stage of this study will be an experimental investigation of the mobility capability of the vehicle. Finally the fourth stage will include quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the benchmarking study.

Lightweight robotic vehicle, terramechanics, mobility, energy efficiency