Design and Experimental Validation of a Simple Controller for a Multi-Segment Magnetic Crawler Robot
SPACE AND NAVAL WARFARE SYSTEMS CENTER PACIFIC SAN DIEGO CA
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A novel, multi-segmented magnetic crawler robot has been designed for ship hull inspection. In its simplest version passive linkages that provide two degrees of relative motion connect front and rear driving modules, so the robot can twist and turn. This permits its navigation over surface discontinuities while maintaining its adhesion to the hull. During operation, the magnetic crawler receives forward and turning velocity commands from either a tele-operator or high-level, autonomous control computer. A low-level, embedded microcomputer handles the commands to the driving motors. This paper presents the development of a simple, low-level, leader-follower controller that permits the rear module to follow the front module. The kinematics and dynamics of the two-module magnetic crawler robot are described. The robots geometry, kinematic constraints and the user-commanded velocities are used to calculate the desired instantaneous center of rotation and the corresponding central-linkage angle necessary for the back module to follow the front module when turning. The commands to the rear driving motors are determined by applying PID control on the error between the desired and measured linkage angle position. The controller is designed and tested using Matlab Simulink. It is then implemented and tested on an early two-module magnetic crawler prototype robot. Results of the simulations and experimental validation of the controller design are presented.