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Best module/device to program, to control servos and GPS? RRS feed

  • Question

  • I am a computer science student with a fascination for robotics.

    My questions are:

    What equipment do I need to build a robot that can navigate purely using GPS?
    Living in London, what kind of costs can I expect to encounter? - Don't worry about this question if you are not in the UK.
    What websites provide tutorial projects to build robots?

    I have a LEGO NXT brick but have never tried programming that, and it's probably rather out dated. But, if not, then someone please point me to some good tutorials for it as well as what IDE I should use to program it in. Eg: Can I use netbeans? Can I use MS robotics?

    Basically, I need a module that can be programmed to control servos and GPS. I can build the robot from some cheap robot toy from the store, but I need to know what module/unit would be best to program to control the servos.

    Any useful links or help would be greatly appreciated!

    Rich.
    Monday, January 3, 2011 6:16 PM

Answers

  • Finding a suitable GPS receiver will not be that difficult, most of the modern ones will do just fine. I use ublox GPS myself, from sparkfun.com, (coolcomponents is a sparkfun reseller for UK). Its a pretty small module, with a helixial antenna, so good for any orientation. You get about 4Hz output.

    The problem at sea is how you do communication back to your website. Cellphones are pretty useless once you are a few km out, and unless you are chasing the drone with a boat, wifi is out. That leaves satellite phones, which are mighty pricey, and radio modems, which have limited range. I have no experience with sat phones owing to their cost. If it were me, i would constrain where you run the drone a bit to make your life easier. 3G wireless internet dongles are really cheap, and with an external antenna would be good enough for working near shore.

    Monday, January 17, 2011 12:18 PM

All replies

  • Hi Rich,

    You really have a decision to make as to the level of complexity you want to work on. If you want to build high level behaviours, MRDS is a very good choice, it has good documentation, a nice set of examples, and the simulation features mean you can do quite a bit before you have to spend money on hardware (i would suggest you start with the simulation tutorials before thinking about buying hardware). A reasonable starting point for a MRDS bot would be a Stinger robot kit from http://www.roboticsconnection.com/c-3-robot-kits.aspx. This still uses a PC for controlling the robot, but if your a CS student you can probably scrounge an old laptop for that job.

    If you are more interested in doing low-level work (like interfacing sensors, building hardware, solving problems at the electronics level), then i would suggest you look at netmf, which allows you to do managed C# on a microprocessor. This device would be a good starting point for the low level side of things. http://www.coolcomponents.co.uk/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=516 There are lots of samples around on the net for interfacing motors, sensors etc.

    In my opinion, if you're into software development, the MRDS approach will probably be a better fit, as you will be able to achieve more without lots of low-level knowledge about the hardware involved.

    Friday, January 14, 2011 4:26 PM
  • Hi Rich,

    You really have a decision to make as to the level of complexity you want to work on. If you want to build high level behaviours, MRDS is a very good choice, it has good documentation, a nice set of examples, and the simulation features mean you can do quite a bit before you have to spend money on hardware (i would suggest you start with the simulation tutorials before thinking about buying hardware). A reasonable starting point for a MRDS bot would be a Stinger robot kit from http://www.roboticsconnection.com/c-3-robot-kits.aspx. This still uses a PC for controlling the robot, but if your a CS student you can probably scrounge an old laptop for that job.

    If you are more interested in doing low-level work (like interfacing sensors, building hardware, solving problems at the electronics level), then i would suggest you look at netmf, which allows you to do managed C# on a microprocessor. This device would be a good starting point for the low level side of things. http://www.coolcomponents.co.uk/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=516 There are lots of samples around on the net for interfacing motors, sensors etc.

    In my opinion, if you're into software development, the MRDS approach will probably be a better fit, as you will be able to achieve more without lots of low-level knowledge about the hardware involved.

    Hi Daedalus,

    Thanks for your help.

    I am looking for something that has a wide range of sensors and other bits available and it looks like www.coolcomponents.co.uk is perfect.

    I did a year of electrical engineering and was an electronic nut when I was a kid so I don't think I'll have too much trouble with interfacing and all that stuff.

    The main sensor needed is GPS. Do you perhaps know of a GPS transmitter that would work far out at sea, eg: The Atlantinc? I would like to get my hands on a GPS transmitter that will transmit coordinates from sea to a web page. Any Idea's?

     

    Rich.

    Friday, January 14, 2011 7:58 PM
  • Finding a suitable GPS receiver will not be that difficult, most of the modern ones will do just fine. I use ublox GPS myself, from sparkfun.com, (coolcomponents is a sparkfun reseller for UK). Its a pretty small module, with a helixial antenna, so good for any orientation. You get about 4Hz output.

    The problem at sea is how you do communication back to your website. Cellphones are pretty useless once you are a few km out, and unless you are chasing the drone with a boat, wifi is out. That leaves satellite phones, which are mighty pricey, and radio modems, which have limited range. I have no experience with sat phones owing to their cost. If it were me, i would constrain where you run the drone a bit to make your life easier. 3G wireless internet dongles are really cheap, and with an external antenna would be good enough for working near shore.

    Monday, January 17, 2011 12:18 PM