Vehicle-terrain parameter estimation for small-scale robotic tracked vehicle
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Methods for estimating vehicle-terrain interaction parameters for small scale robotic vehicles have been formulated and evaluated using both simulation and experimental studies. A model basis was developed, guided by experimental studies with an iRobot PackBot. The intention was to demonstrate whether a nominally instrumented robotic vehicle could be used as a test platform for generating data for vehicle-terrain parameter estimation. A comprehensive skid-steered model was found to be sensitive enough to distinguish between various forms of unknown terrains. This simulation study also verified that the Bekker model for large scale vehicles adopted for this research was applicable to the small scale robotic vehicle used in this work. This fact was also confirmed by estimating coefficients of friction and establishing their dependence on forward velocity and turning radius as the vehicle traverses different terrains. On establishing that mobility measurements for this robotic were sufficiently sensitive, it was found that estimates could be made of key dynamic variables and vehicle-terrain interaction parameters. Four main contributions are described for reliably and robustly using PackBot data for vehicle-terrain property estimation. These estimation methods should contribute to efforts in improving mobility of small scale tracked vehicles on uncertain terrains. The approach is embodied in a multi-tiered algorithm based on the dynamic and kinematic models for skid-steering as well as tractive force models parameterized by key vehicle-terrain parameters. In order to estimate and characterize the key parameters, nonlinear estimation techniques such as the Extended Kalman Filter (EKF), Unscented Kalman Filter (UKF), and a General Newton Raphson (GNR) method are integrated into this multi-tiered algorithm. A unique idea in using an EKF with an added State Noise Compensation algorithm is presented which shows its robustness and consistency in estimating slip variables and other parameters for deformable terrains. In the multi-tiered algorithm, a kinematic model of the robotic vehicle is used to estimate slip variables and turning radius. These estimated variables are stored in a truth table and used in a skid-steered dynamic model to estimate the coefficients of friction. The total estimated slip on the left and right track, along with the total tractive force computed using a motor model, are then used in the GNR algorithm to estimate the key vehicle-terrain parameters. These estimated parameters are cross-checked and confirmed with EKF estimation results. Further, these simulation results verify that the tracked vehicle tractive force is not dependent on cohesion for frictional soils. This sequential algorithm is shown to be effective in estimating vehicle-terrain interaction properties with relatively good accuracy. The estimated results obtained from UKF and EKF are verified and compared with available experimental data, and tested on a PackBot traversing specified terrains at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Small Robotics Testbed in San Antonio, Texas. In the end, based on the development and evaluation of small scale vehicle testing, the effectiveness of on-board sensing methods and estimation techniques are also discussed for potential use in real time estimation of vehicle-terrain parameters.