The development of localisation capabilities and control for a low-cost robot

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

A fully autonomous robot which can perform dangerous or mundane tasks is the ideal outcome of robotic research. A variety of commercially available household robots such as robotic vacuum cleaners exist but are limited in their navigation ability. In general, they tend to use random search patterns to navigate a room and overestimate the time required to clean the room in order to ensure covering the entire area. The ability to map the environment and then use this map to navigate is an essential step towards total autonomy, and would greatly improve the efficiency of these household robots. Autonomous mapping is a complex problem as the robot must use sensor readings to generate a map while at the same time using that map to locate itself and navigate. One component of the mapping task is localisation. This is the process of determining position and orientation from sensor data given a known map. This was the focus of this work as a first-step towards an autonomous mapping robot. This project continued the work of an undergraduate thesis in which a robot vacuum base was built. Using this base, the sensing and control systems were developed. The selection of a suitable controller was an important aspect of the development. It had to be suitable not only for this task but allow for expansion of the control capabilities should the project be extended. The Gumstix/Roboaudiostix embedded system was chosen and performed successfully. Its extremely small size and low power requirements are a feature of the system.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 58-61).