Development of a Next-generation Experimental Robotic Vehicle (NERV) that Supports Intelligent and Autonomous Systems Research

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Recent advances in technology have enabled the development of truly autonomous ground vehicles capable of performing complex navigation tasks. As a result, the demand for practical unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) systems has increased dramatically in recent years. Central to these developments is maturation of emerging mobile robotic intelligent and autonomous capability. While the progress UGV technology has been substantial, there are many challenges that still face unmanned vehicle system developers. Foremost is the improvement of perception hardware and intelligent software that supports the evolution of UGV capability.

The development of a Next-generation Experimentation Robotic Vehicle (NERV) serves to provide a small UGV baseline platform supporting experimentation focused on progression of the state-of-the-art in unmanned systems. Supporting research and user feedback highlight the needs that provide justification for an advanced small UGV research platform. Primarily, such a vehicle must be based upon open and technology independent system architecture while exhibiting improved mobility over relatively structured terrain.

To this end, a theoretical kinematic model is presented for a novel two-body multi degree-of-freedom, four-wheel drive, small UGV platform. The efficacy of the theoretical kinematic model was validated through computer simulation and experimentation on a full-scale proof-of-concept mobile robotic platform. The kinematic model provides the foundation for autonomous multi-body control. Further, a modular system level design based upon the concepts of the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) is offered as an open architecture model providing a scalable system integration solution. Together these elements provide a blueprint for the development of a small UGV capable of supporting the needs of a wide range of leading-edge intelligent system research initiatives.



System Integration, Robotic Vehicle Design, Mobile Robot Kinematic Design, Unmanned Ground Vehicle, Autonomous Vehicle, Experimentation