Title page for ETD etd-07142007-135835

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Worley, Marilyn Elizabeth
URN etd-07142007-135835
Title Experimental Study on the Mobility of Lightweight Vehicles on Sand
Degree Master of Science
Department Mechanical Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Sandu, Corina Committee Chair
Hong, Dennis W. Committee Member
Morgan, John P. Committee Member
  • Lightweight vehicles
  • mobility
  • sand
  • coastal terrain
  • off-road vehicle performance
  • robotic ground vehicles
  • novel locomotion
Date of Defense 2007-06-29
Availability unrestricted
This study focuses on developing a better comprehension of the mobility of lightweight autonomous vehicles with varying locomotion platforms on sand. This research involves four segments.

The first segment is a review of military criteria for the development of lightweight unmanned ground vehicles, followed by a review a review of current methodologies for evaluating the terramechanic (vehicle-ground interaction) mobility measures of heavyweight wheeled and tracked vehicles, and ending with a review of the defining properties of deformable terrain with specific emphasis on sand. These present a basis for understanding what currently defines mobility and how mobility is quantified for traditional heavyweight wheeled and tracked vehicles, as well as an understanding of the environment of operation (sandy terrain) for the lightweight vehicles in this study.

The second segment involves the identification of key properties associated with the mobility and operation of lightweight vehicles on sand as related to given mission criteria, so as to form a quantitative assessment system to compare lightweight vehicles of varying locomotion platforms. A table based on the House of Quality shows the relationships—high, low, or adverse—between mission profile requirements and general performance measures and geometries of vehicles under consideration for use. This table, when combined with known values for vehicle metrics, provides information for an index formula used to quantitatively compare the mobility of a user-chosen set of vehicles, regardless of their methods of locomotion. This table identifies several important or fundamental terramechanics properties that necessitate model development for robots with novel locomotion platforms and testing for lightweight wheeled and tracked vehicles so as to consider the adaptation of counterpart heavyweight terramechanics models for use.

The third segment is a study of robots utilizing novel forms of locomotion, emphasizing the kinematics of locomotion (gait and foot placement) and proposed starting points for the development of terramechanics models so as to compare their mobility and performance with more traditional wheeled and tracked vehicles. In this study several new autonomous vehicles—bipedal, self-excited dynamic tripedal, active spoke-wheel—that are currently under development are explored.

The final segment involves experimentation of several lightweight vehicles and robots on sand. A preliminary experimentation was performed evaluating a lightweight autonomous tracked vehicle for its performance and operation on sand. A bipedal robot was then tested to study the foot-ground interaction with and sinkage into a medium-grade sand, utilizing a one of the first-developed walking gaits. Finally, a comprehensive set of experiments was performed on a lightweight wheeled vehicle. While the terramechanics properties of wheeled and tracked vehicles, such as the contact patch pressure distribution, have been understood and models have been developed for heavy vehicles, the feasibility of extrapolating them to the analysis of light vehicles is still under analysis. A wheeled all-terrain vehicle was tested for effects of sand gradation, vehicle speed, and vehicle payload on measures of pressure and sinkage in the contact patch, and preliminary analysis is presented on the sinkage of the wheeled all-terrain vehicle.

These four segments—review of properties of sandy terrain and measures of and criteria for the mobility of lightweight vehicles operating on sandy terrain, the development of the comparison matrix and indexing function, modeling and development of novel forms of locomotion, and physical experimentation of lightweight tracked and wheeled vehicles as well as a bipedal robot—combine to give an overall picture of mobility that spans across different forms of locomotion.

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