A robotic hound that can map, navigate, and interact autonomously

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There are many issues that can be solved with a robust autonomous navigating outdoor robot. A major use case for me is traversing hiking paths to find people who may be injured or in distress where there may be poor GPS reception and no cell coverage.

There are many applications where automatic daily sweeps for people in distress could be useful. The Houndbot can also be enhanced to try to detect animals as it moves, marking locations where snakes or other nasties were found. The world changing elements are quicker help for those in distress and marking potential hazards to help prevent issues.

The houndbot will use stereo vision to map and navigate an outdoor area. The current hardware prototype runs at around 20km/h and is around 25kg in weight mainly out of 6061 alloy.

I intend to not rely on GPS as the robot may not have signal.

To help building a map of a hiking trail the houndbot will need to be driven by remote control one or more times. Then, using the map built up the houndbot could perform the same traverse without any remote control. If the robot was traversing late in the afternoon it could be assumed that humans found might be in distress.

The robot will run ROS which is release under an OSI approved license, depending on the nodes this may well be BSD.

This rather crude image shows how this will work. As folks can register their name and path at lodges currently, the first version might rely on rfid cards that hikers would choose to carry. If horizontal humans are detected the rfid card to be used as either a simple second step "yep it's a person" and then verify that they are in distress (or don't respond which is a soft distress).

  • 1 × large sheet of 1/4 inch 6061 alloy
  • 4 × mountain bike suspension
  • 1 × microatx case and computer
  • 1 × sheet of carbon fibre, 5 min epoxy, plenty of brushes

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  • 1
    The chassis

    I'm using a single plate of 1/4 inch 6061 as the flat base and some 6061 uprights at the front and back MIG welded in place with a top brace to form large box sections. These front and back side parts are great for attaching the large wheel suspension assembly to the robot.

    Around the computer bay I have layed up some kevlar reinforced carbon fibre. I chose that over alloy to keep the weight down.

  • 2
    Battery bay

    The battery bay is a thin alloy plate attached over the computer bay. I intend to bend some round steel stock and weld up a roll cage with metal mesh to protect the batteries from impact.

  • 3
    Basic RC

    I have wired the RC receiver to an arduino nano which converts the RC PWM/PPM messages for a 10 channel remote into csv serial data. This keeps the code on the arduino simple at the expense of parsing csv data in a ROS node on the main computer.

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