Engineering innovations for defence and automation
A vibrating platform with the ability to deliver an object along a camera determined route and a disposable, unmanned guided vehicle were just two of the projects demonstrated by teams taking part in the National Instruments Engineering Leadership Programme.
The vibrating platform was demonstrated by two of its team members, Jeremy Twaits and George Tsavoutis.
The system uses an NI 'smart camera' which locates a ball and its position within maze barriers. It then sends details on the position and movement information to an NI Compact RIO processing module with an fpga backplane. This controls two servo motors which tilt the table and apply a jitter to prevent the ball becoming stuck. Pulsed led backlighting makes the ball and barriers more visible to the camera.
The project was executed in order to develop the participants' skills in solving automation problems which, in the outside world, include those pertaining to the operation of the Large Hadron Collider. Process loop update rate was 50Hz.
Another innovation was a small unmanned guided vehicle which, according to team members Ashish Naik and Prashant Mistry, was controlled through a wireless link with a control loop update rate of 2kHz. The vehicle was constructed for a total cost of £110 - including motors and encoders - and had two infrared sensors on motorised swivels to locate obstacles or other items of interest. Identification was handled by a remote PXI controller, so all the expensive parts were well away from the vehicle, unlike many other autonomous unmanned guided vehicles.
Naik and Mistry said that in a military situation the link could have 64bit encryption, while the vehicle, which is cheap enough to be disposable, could also be used for penetrating hazardous environments.
Each team had five members and each project is thought to have taken about 600 man hours to accomplish.
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