Curiosity Mars Rover

Curiosity Mars Rover

We are excited to share our latest and most ambitious robot, the Curiosity Mars Rover. This is a highly-interactive, 1/10th scale functional replica of the NASA Curiosity Mars Rover. This project was ambitious for us in two main ways: First, we worked very hard to make the robot visually accurate to the original NASA rover. This necessitated custom designing and manufacturing nearly every visible component on the robot. One of the key challenges was to get the required level of detail and functionality into such a small scale robot. Second, we encapsulated all the features and capabilities we wanted for this robot into a robust, maintainable, and modular electronics package based on a stack of custom Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) that we designed. This post focuses on the external view of the robot while future posts will focus on the electronics and functionality.

Our Curiosity Mars Rover includes a Six Wheel Drive System (6WD), a fully-functional Rocker-Bogie Suspension System (RBSS), servo steering, a functional differential bar, a 360-degree camera/sensor turret, 3D LIDAR sensing, autonomous behavior, radio data transmission, and much more—all as per the real Curiosity. The rover is approximately 17” long x 20” wide x12” high.

To achieve the visual appearance we wanted, we carefully studied all the NASA photographs and drawings we could find,  designed each component using the Fusion 360 CAD software (special thanks to our friend Dan Kreisher!), and then manufactured the custom parts one by one, including all of the body components, chassis struts, wheels, hubs, turret, top deck details, side details, and all the other visible components. All of the white parts, the struts, the servo covers, the wheels, and many other parts were printed in-house on our Formlabs SLA 3D printer out of engineering resin, then carefully sanded and painted (special thanks to Jennifer Beatty and Mike Dutra for helping out in this critical area!). The metal parts were machined out of 6061 Aluminum on our in-house Tormach CNC Mill and/or by our friend John Saunders. Several of the small stainless steel parts (around the camera lenses on the masthead) were laser cut for us by our friends at Pololu.

We’ll provide more details on the electronics and the build in the future, but here is a quick run down of some of our main sources: Pololu: motors, shaft hubs, motor controllers, smart switch, current sensor, and voltage regulators. PCJR: Teensy 3.6 microcontroller. DigiKey: resistors, capacitors, relays, connectors, wires, and all other discrete electronic components. McMaster-Carr: screws, spacers, nuts, raw material, and other fasteners. Robotis: Dynamixel servos. Sparkfun: Xbee radio board, LIDAR, and other electronics. Adafruit: Neopixel and other electronics. Amimon: Connex Prosight HD Video.

CURIOSITY MARS ROVER – MAIN VIEW

Sojourner Mars Rover

Sojourner Mars Rover

We are super excited to introduce Sojourner, our newest robot. The original 1997 NASA Sojourner was the very first robot to operate on an different planet.  Like the real Sojourner, our little robot includes six wheels, rotational servo steering, a fully-functional rocker-bogie suspension system, solar panels, a large main antenna, lithium battery, a “warm box” to protect its electronics, a video camera, and a host of other components. We built our Sojourner in 1/2 scale because it is intended to be used in interactive exhibits in space museums where space is limited. Here are some photos of the robot, followed by work-in-process photos from the workshop, our CAD models, and two images of the real Sojourner for comparison purposes.

We worked hard on the inside of the robot as well. It contains a new thing we’ve put together that we call “The Core”. The Core is a stack of integrated electronics that includes an Arduino Zero, a Servo Shield for controlling the robot’s 8 servos, a custom shield we’ve developed, and a high-powered Motor Controller. We think it’s interesting that the real Sojourner used an 8-bit microcontroller that ran at 2 MHz. Our Sojourner robot uses a 32-bit Cortex M0+ processor running at 48 MHz. In other words, our Sojourner is far more powerful than the real NASA Sojourner. That’s crazy! A lot has happened since 1997!

You may notice that Sojourner is equipped with a servo-mounted laser range finder (LIDAR) on the front and back. As the servo sweeps through 180 degrees, the LIDAR unit shoots out a laser to determine the distance to the nearest object at each degree. This is used for obstacle avoidance and autonomous navigation. Sojourner is also equipped with an HD camera that streams FPV video back to video goggles and/or computer monitor.

Sojourner is equipped with an Xbee radio for transmitting to and receiving from a computer control station. Sojourner is capable of exploring autonomously, or taking a “Command Sequence” (a series of user-programmed movement commands), or real-time manual Remote Control.

This is a small little robot, but it’s become one of our favorites. In future posts, we’ll share some video of Sojourner in operation, a description of the control software, and the details about the new shield we’re working on.

We would like to thank Arduino, Actobotics/ServoCity, Adafruit, Pololu, Ion Motion, and the other companies that provided many of the components. We would like to give special thanks to Dan Kreisher for helping us with the CAD modeling on Fusion 360.

THE BEATTY ROBOTICS 3D CAD MODEL OF SOJOURNER

THE FOLLOWING PHOTOS SHOW THE ACTUAL NASA SOJOURNER ROVER

(Please note that the robot’s tread’s look blackish in this photo, but in reality the machined aluminum wheels had sheet-metal teeth, not rubber. Rubber would freeze and shatter on Mars)

We’re building a Lunar Rover !

We’re building a Lunar Rover !

SpaceLS, a rocket company in the UK, has asked Beatty Robotics to team up with them to pursue a mission to put a rover on the moon. The first step in the process is for Beatty Robotics to design and construct a prototype for SpaceLS to use for testing, experimentation, and development. We’ve been working hard on the project, but we’ve been so busy we haven’t had time to take any pictures until now! Here are our first photos of the Lunar Rover’s rocker-bogie suspension system, counter rotating universal joint, steering servos, motors, and wheels. We designed the wheels to be large (6+” diameter) and wide for traveling through lunar ash. All the components of the robot will be machined out of aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber. When it’s done, the robot will be solar powered and run on an Intel Edison. These are work-in-progress photos. The robot’s core/body, solar panels, video/sensor mast head, and other components are not shown.

Lunar Rover Side View

Lunar Rover - Angled View

Lunar Rover - Top View

Lunar Rover Wheel

Counter Rotating Universal Joint

Lunar Rover Drive Assembly

Lunar Rover

Snailbot Work-in-process

Snailbot Work-in-process

Snailbot is one of my favorite pet projects. 🙂 The idea is to build a robot inspired from a biological creature, in this case, a snail. The first challenge was to design and wire-up the electronics so that they would fit inside the limited space of the snail shell. The electronics include an Arduino Nano microcontroller, a motor controller, two tiny gear motors with wheels, a lithium-polymer battery, an xbee radio for data transmission and remote control, an SD card and sound module, a tiny speaker for sound effects, and two ultrasonic sensors that will serve as Snailbot’s eyes.

THE EYES OF THE ROBOT STICKING OUT OF THE SHELL PRIOR TO SCULPTING THE EYE STALKS

SNAILBOT SIDE VIEW PRIOR TO SCULPTING THE MOLLUSK PORTION OF THE ROBOT

SNAILBOT’S SHELL

THE ELECTRONICS IN THE SHELL

I’M MOLDING WET CLAY TO CREATE THE SOFT MOLLUSK PORTION OF SNAILBOT

SCULPTING THE EYE STALKS

Snailbot isn’t done yet, but I’ve made good progress.

Building a new rover

Building a new rover

We have taken on a new project to build a compact rover for the New York Hall of Science, something that visitors can drive around in the corridors of the Science Center and that the staff can easily take to off-site activities such as schools and children’s hospitals. The design and construction is well under way. We are also happy to announce that we have a new member at Beatty Robotics. His name is Camille McCollough. He’s a junior at Carolina Day School, where he is taking robotics classes, as well as physics, math, and other curriculum. He has joined our team to learn, gain experience, and lend a hand. Here is Camille building the robot’s pan-tilt turret from Actobotics parts, including a servo, gearbox, and gears:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Camille and Camille working on the assembly of the robot’s front LED “head lights”:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Camille working on the assembly of the sonar mounts, while Camille works on the pan-tilt turret:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Camille building the first of the six steering assemblies, each of which consists of a servo, servo block, motor, hub, and wheel. We are using a combination of Actobotics parts and our own parts that we made on the CNC.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Camille tests the design and assembly of the first steering servo and wheel.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We use a scale drawing of the master plate to plan out where all the components are going to be positioned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Camille shows Camille how to machine a part of the vertical mill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Camille machines the next part on the vertical mill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA