In package delivery business the most wasteful part is the last-mile delivery. It means delivering packages from package sorting office to client’s door. This kind of delivery takes a lot of time and energy which also adds on the client’s delivery cost. By using autonomous delivery robots these costs can be brought down to about fraction of the usual cost. Also clients can have more control over the time the package arrives to the door. Delivery efficiency is even more increased by fact that robots don’t need to rest like humans and can work 24/7. Robots usually run on batteries and are thus very environment friendly and can move along sidewalks (UGV) or fly above buildings (UAV).
During the exercise we build a simple ground vehicle platform which has the ability to move along people. This kind of robot platform is the basis of a delivery robot. By adding camera, sensors and connectivity the robot can be made fully autonomous and also remotely controllable for difficult to pass through areas.
Task involves building a robot platform which moves on wheels and has a drive system (motors & controller) which is controlled by either computer or microcontroller. Robot platform has to be able to move on flat ground and up to small slopes. Depending on the available components the robot can be fully autonomous or remotely controllable by human operator with a camera and real time communication. Functional robot is then put on a track which consists of start and end points. Between these two points different obstacles can be found that robot must avoid and pass.
- Find similar solution and study theory or working principles.
- Choose robot platform, motors and controller to drive motors.
- Decide the type of computing power the robot needs: microcontroller or computer
- Decide the type of sensors or camera to use with the chosen computing platform
- Make wiring diagram to connect sensors or camera to computing platform
- Connect sensors or camera to the computing platform
- Check again if all devices are connected right
- Program the computing platform to run pre made delivery robot software
- Install a suitable programming environment for chosen computing platform
- Test if example code in programming environment can be compiled and run on the computing platform
- Check if program and entire solution meets requirements
- Make documentations and user manuals
This delivery robot platform demonstrates how simple mobile robots work and which are the key components they need. These robots can be controlled autonomously or through remote connection. Because delivery robots in reality are meant to drive on streets among people then for safety it is necessary to have a remote control capability as backup option. This can be implemented by adding internet connectivity through mobile or wifi network. Also the robot intelligence can be upgraded by adding more informative sensors like LIDAR.
Expected Learning Outcomes
- To find out how microcontroller/computer based systems work
- To understand different sensors theory and working principles
- To understand principles of mobile robot building and controlling
- To build a simple delivery robot platform
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- Microcontroller or minicomputer with GPIO ports (e.g. Robotic HomeLab kit, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc) with sensors and LED