Mechanical design of a Stewart platform-based crawling vehicle

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Virginia Tech


It is well established that a vast majority of the Earth's surface is inaccessible to conventional vehicles. Furthernore, projects alluding to the exploration of Mar's conclude that its surface is too rough for conventional wheeled vehicles. Man and cursorial animals, however, are capable of traversing virtually all types of terrain. These reasons, among others, have focused almost all development on walking vehicles having fixed torsos and articulated legs which emulate the locomotion of man and animals. Insects such as the caterpillar move with fixed legs and an articulated torso. They too can traverse rough terrain but do so with greater stability than bipeds or quadrupeds.

This thesis presents a design for a caterpillar-like crawling vehicle. An overview of the effort to develop walking vehicles is included to show the depth of interest in developing a vehicle capable of traversing rough terrain. A general overview of crawling vehicle objectives and the control problems hampering the realization of a crawling vehicle are then described. Finally, this thesis provides a detailed mechanical design with the kinematic and mechanical considerations governing that design.