Radio-controlled (R/C) cars, aircraft, and boats have been around for decades. Unlike robots that
operate autonomously, R/C vehicles require someone manipulating a transmitter joystick. This article
provides details on interfacing an off-the-shelf R/C transmitter to a desktop or laptop PC. This allows a
computer — rather than a person — to manipulate the R/C vehicle. Programs can be written to
navigate the vehicle. Standard servos, receivers, and transmitters can be configured to build
wireless computer-controlled bipeds, terrestrial rovers, or even unmanned aerial vehicles.
With this article, you can start transforming off-the-shelf R/C vehicles into real world,
autonomous robots. A PIC16F84 microprocessor, PC parallel port interface circuit, and a
Visual Basic program are presented to demonstrate this transformation. All source
code and circuit diagrams are freely and fully provided. While PCB artwork is
provided, this project can also be breadboarded in an afternoon for under
$20.00 in parts.
by Keith Sevcik & Dr. Paul Oh
SERVO 07.2004 73