The Hulk: Design and Development of a Weather-Proof Vehicle for Long-Term Autonomy in Outdoor Environments
Kyberd S., Attias J., Get P., Murcutt P., Prahacs C., Towlson M., Venn S., Vasconcelos A., Gadd M., Martini DD., Newman P.
In recent years the range of robotics platforms available for research and development has increased dramatically. Despite this, there are areas and applications which are not currently well served by the existing available platforms. Many of them are designed for indoor use; the range of outdoor and off-road robotics platforms is less diverse and few address the issue of deployment in hazardous weather conditions and integrate a suitable sensor suite. In addition almost all of the commercially available Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) are unsuitable for deployment on delicate surfaces. Given the widespread use of manicured grass within the built environment and agriculture across the Western world, this severely limits where they can be deployed and the tasks that can be accomplished. This paper introduces the design principles of a suitable autonomous vehicle. Hulk is built from a commercial zero-turn mower modified for fly-by-wire operation and equipped with a full sensor suite and computing payload. To enable remote, long-term autonomy in diverse environments, several layers of redundant safety systems were designed and installed and the entire assembly made weatherproof.