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Sensors For Mobile Robots — Part 3
by Tom Carroll
The last two months, I’ve been referencing Bart Everett’s sensor book from 1995
— Sensors for Mobile Robots — a book that, in my opinion, should be on every
robot experimenter’s bookshelf. Everett’s book emphasizes just how critical the
need and use of sensors is for successful robot designs. His book not only
describes how they work but which ones to use and how to use them. Though
it was published 17 years ago, almost all of the types and technology involved
are still appropriate for today’s robot designs.
In this series on sensors for mobile robots, I have referenced Everett’s book so much because it has always
been an inspiration for me. The Navy and Everett’s robots
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have certainly advanced quite a bit since he first started
building his series of ‘Robart’ robots as test platforms. Not
only has onboard computer intelligence advanced, but the
associated sensors have made amazing leaps in technology.
Robots rely quite a bit on advanced mechanical and power
systems, but it is sensor technology coupled with computer
science that has created the amazing robots that we see in
the forefront of today’s military actions and surveillance.
As robot experimenters, most of us want to keep
abreast of the latest advances in any science and
engineering aspect of our creations. We certainly don’t
have the seemingly unlimited funding like the military, so
we must rely on the best that we can find for the lowest
cost. I have tried to present the best solutions in sensor
technology that I could find from robot manufacturers and
suppliers while keeping most products below $100. A lot of
the products that I have reviewed have been in the $10-$50
range, except for the MaxBotix weather-proof sonar at
$100 and the Parallax laser range finder at $130. This
month, I will discuss some unique sensors — most of which
happen to be from Parallax, and range in price from $6 to
about $60. I do encourage you to look at the great
products from all the robot-specific companies.
Localization: Where Am I?
Once a robot leaves the confines of our workshop area,
another problem begins to become evident: The robot
FIGURE 1. Mark Curry — winner of the RoboMagellan
contest at Robothon 2010.