Improving Endurance and Range of a UGV with Gimballed Landing Platform for Launching Small Unmanned Helicopters

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Design specifications for a high-endurance and range unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) with a gimballed landing platform on top of it for takeoff/landing, transporting to the target area and recharging of small/miniature unmanned helicopters are presented and justified. Specification constraints include UGV strict payload limitations, limited free space affecting power supply availability that impacts on-board available energy, limited endurance and operational range, as well as limitations and restrictions related to electric and non-electric small unmanned vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles, similar to those of UGV with the most important being limited flying time. Focusing on the All Terrain Robot Vehicle (ATRV-Jr) UGV and a helicopter of the size of the Maxi Joker 2 as a testbed, a detailed analysis of component power consumption reveals reasons for reduced runtime and operational range. After a comparative study of state of the art power supply and battery technologies, a hybrid battery configuration is proposed that improves more than 500% the manufacturer-specified ATRV-Jr endurance (or 1,000% the currently used custom-made ATRV-Jr endurance) by considering: (1) optimum design with weight, volume, runtime and rechargeability being major restrictions and concerns, and (2) use of lower power sensors and processors without affecting UGV functionality and operability. A sun-tracking solar array that collects and stores energy is integrated with the UGV gimballed landing platform. Simulations demonstrate the validity of the design. Although the testbed is specific, the design itself is generic enough and suitable for other UGV/VTOL vehicles.

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