J. Mech. Des. (2014); doi:10.1115/1.4028094
The Swan-Canning River, which features relatively shallow and slow-moving water with sandy soils, is the most important estuary system in Perth, Western Australia. Currently, the Department of Water Western Australia sends personnel to manually survey and collect water and sand samples at thirty-two routine sampling sites along the Swan-Canning River weekly. The excessively large monitoring areas make the sample collection a costly practice, and the safety of personnel is potentially put at risk during the seasonal collection of mosquito-larvae samples and the occasional collection of toxic-waste samples. At the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Curtin University, we developed the AmBot, an amphibious robot, to automate this operation. The major challenge in developing the AmBot lies in that the limited physical size of the robot allows only one type of propulsion system to be used both on land and on water. On the contrary, large amphibious robots that use wheels or track systems when on land can switch to propellers when on water. We took inspiration from centipedes and morphed the multi-leg actuation into tracks by simplifying each leg-mechanism into a track piece consisting of a base and a polystyrene-foam block. This design makes the tracks essentially both floats and paddles that are also capable of withstanding the weight of the vehicle. When on water, the tracks provide propulsion force and buoyancy so that the waterline is well controlled; when on land, the tracks effectively spread the contact force across multi-blocks, leading to effective actuation and low pressure on the sandy terrain, hence protecting the beach eco-system. The AmBot uses an Android-based remote-control system via the Internet, where the accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, and camera on the Android device provide integrated navigation and monitoring sensing.
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