ARISE Project Rover Pro

A UK project is developing an unmanned ground vehicle for hostile environments based around automotive-grade parts and an FPGA board (writes Nick Flaherty in Unmanned Systems Technology Magazine).

A Rover Pro system, from Rover Robotics, has been adapted with flipper tracks to enable it to move over post-blast terrain in quarries when the conditions are too dangerous for people. The tracks also allow the UGV to climb stairs.

The system is based around the VCS-1 FPGA board from Sundance, with RealSense D435i and D435 depth-sensing cameras from Intel. A GPS unit supports an IMU, with power from an ATX power supply.

The system has been designed to make it simple to add new modules and sensors. The FPGA allows custom algorithms for machine learning to be implemented with modules connected via a USB-C interface.

The cameras enable the UGV to obtain data about its surroundings. The D435 has an RGB image channel and a depth channel, while the D435i carries the IMU. The cameras can be installed so that they point in opposite orientations and can be enabled according to the direction of motion. Camera data can also be used to feed AI inference software based on a custom pre-trained neural network to detect the objects, with autonomous control software from GMV Innovating Solutions.

The system is part of a project called ARISE (Autonomous Robotic InSpEction) that aims to implement autonomous surveys of geotechnical conditions during the normally unproductive period immediately after a blast, when workers vacate the mine to avoid post-blast fumes and the risk of rockfalls.

The system is being developed as a commercial product, and uses parts with automotive qualification because of their higher reliability.

Tests were made at Nottingham Trent University where we tested the platform for speed, agility, battery life and precision of the GPS receiver.

There are numerous potential use cases for our robot, including:

• Autonomous field inspection
• Autonomous building inspections (the Flipper can climb stairs)
• Critical substance delivery
• Mineshaft mapping

List of hardware on board:


VCS-1 System

ATX power supply

Realsense D435i camera

Realsense D435 camera

GPS unit

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