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Research Team Uses Clearpath Simulation in Second Place Finish at RoboBoat 2020

It is at all times thrilling when robotics analysis might be pushed to its limits, whether or not that be in competitors or real-world functions. Recently, a analysis workforce from the University of Louisiana of Lafayette used a Clearpath Husky UGV, TurtleBot2, and our Heron USV simulator in preparation for RoboBoat 2020; a robotics competitors the place college students should develop their very own autonomous floor autos. In quite a lot of occasions, groups should check their robotic’s maneuverability and navigation towards varied conditions meant to copy present challenges in the maritime business, corresponding to coastal surveillance.

The workforce was a collaboration between the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the C.R.A.W.LAB, and UL Lafayette RoboBoat 2020. The analysis was performed below the management of Associate Professor Dr. Joshua Vaughan and student-led by Team Captain Benjamin Armentor and Vice-Captain Joseph Stevens. The workforce itself was then made up of a number of undergraduate researchers together with Andrew Durand, Bradley Este, Nathan Madsen, and Thomas Poché, Masters pupil Dallas Mitchell, and eventually Ph.D. pupil Gerald Eaglin.

The C.R.A.W.LAB workforce making poolside changes

A Challenger Approaches

While RoboBoat2020 is usually held at Reed Canal Park in Daytona Beach, Florida between June 22 – 28, 2020, this 12 months as a consequence of COVID-19, the occasion was pressured to show digital. However, the competitors was nonetheless fierce because the groups weren’t solely required to efficiently execute their autonomous floor autos but additionally incorporate rigorous technical design documentation and displays. Finally, as soon as their designs have been accomplished, groups must put their autonomous car conduct to the check by a navigation channel riddled with obstacles with a number of goals that included delivering objects, hitting a set maneuvering pace, and returning safely to dock.

In addition to collaborating in robotics challenges, the workforce can also be working in the direction of robotics innovation. The C.R.A.W.LAB at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, for instance, performs automation and controls analysis throughout a reasonably broad vary of functions, from autonomous maritime methods to robots for inspection and upkeep to industrial automation.


RoboBoat 2020 render in Blender (left)        Heron USV (proper)

“The ‘completeness’ of the Clearpath systems [let] us focus on the higher-level aspects of the research and/or the development for the RoboBoat contest.” – Associate Professor Dr. Joshua Vaughan

To start, the workforce primarily based the simulation of their RoboBoat 2020 entry on our Heron USV platform, saving them appreciable time and sources that might often have been spent totally growing the simulation from scratch. By utilizing our Heron USV Simulator for RoboBoat 2020 they alleviated two core technical challenges behind growing and implementing methods and algorithms crucial for autonomous maritime methods:

  1. Eliminating journey to a check location. This would’ve pressured further time and sources on establishing the mandatory energy and networking methods in addition to time away from the lab.
  2. Acclimating college students shortly to the mission and serving to them get conversant in the system.


Heron USV Simulator

Expediting Testing on Land

To fight many of those testing challenges, the workforce utilized ROS/gazebo simulations and the Husky UGV and TurtleBot2 {hardware}. Specifically for RoboticBoat 2020, they extensively leveraged the Heron simulation bundle which they prolonged to incorporate their very own sensor bundle and thruster configuration. A Clearpath Husky UGV and TurtleBot2 have been then used to check their mapping, impediment identification and avoidance, and path planning algorithms. On the second place profitable boat, the workforce used Zed cameras and Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW Scanning Laser Rangefinders on each the bow and stern. These have been used for localization and impediment avoidance. In addition, the set-up had a GPS system and IMU. The major communication between the boat and the shore was Wi-Fi primarily based, though a separate LoRA-based system was used for the E-stop. Finally, they utilized each Jetson TX2s (for predominant management and sensor processing) and a Raspberry Pi.

Husky UGV getting used for bouy ID and avoidance testing

The workforce discovered the Turtlebot2 and our ROS tutorials extraordinarily helpful in getting college students snug with ROS in addition to our ROS guides to offer every pupil a transparent path towards ROS competency. Without the Heron USV simulator, the workforce would have needed to resort to rolling their very own ROS/gazebo simulation of the boat, whereas, with out Husky UGV or TurtleBot2, they might’ve sunk time and sources into on-water testing. With Clearpath methods, the workforce was capable of save themselves appreciable effort and time to concentrate on their very own analysis. 

Overall, the top of the C.R.A.W.LAB, Dr. Joshua Vaughan, loved the stress reliever of getting platforms like Husky UGV and Turtlebot2 which can be pre-designed and able to go. As he mentioned, “the ‘completeness’ of the Clearpath systems lets us focus on the higher-level aspects of the research and/or the development for the RoboBoat contest.”

C.R.A.W.LAB’s Successes

Using Clearpath methods, the workforce was capable of compete at RoboBoat 2019 and 2020, they usually plan to compete in the 2021 contest as nicely. They liked competing in this expertise which is run by RoboNation, however they’ve additionally had nice runs at occasions just like the Maritime RobotX Challenge. In the 2020 RoboBoat competitors they have been awarded 2nd Overall, third in Technical Design Report, and have been awarded a particular award for Testing on the Horizon. Furthermore, they have been additionally granted a particular award for manufacturing in the 2019 RoboBoat competitors.

The workforce’s achievements haven’t solely netted them recognition in the robotics competitors neighborhood and distinctive analysis progress but additionally have offered them with a three-year Louisiana Board of Regents Industrial Ties Research Subprogram (ITRS) grant. This linked them with their business accomplice, ASV Global who’s now a part of L3 Harris. Furthermore, they’ve obtained assist from VectorNav, AWC (who helped safe them a Hammond enclosure), and ClickBond.

If you have an interest in studying extra in regards to the C.R.A.W.LAB, you may go to their web site right here.

To study extra in regards to the Heron USV Simulator, try our weblog publish from final 12 months.

If you’re in search of a robotic to prototype your functions and algorithms with, try our web site or attain out to us at present.

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