I've been contemplating hacking a kid's Power Wheels style vehicle into something autonomous for a long time. I found this one for $20. I like it because the rider area is lower than most, lowering CoG for stability. It's hard to beat a robot chassis for $20 so I'm going to look at it today. I hope it has two motors for the rear wheels, and I hope the steering mechanism isn't too crazy. The battery is dead, and it doesn't come with a charger but that is fine with me.
If it is reliable, and waterproof I'd like to leave it out in the desert, like a real rover. I think if I coordinate this with the Park Patrol in this area
I can get away with it. I would like to leave it out there for at least 1 month, possibly longer. It would be interesting to see how long it lasts out there, and what happens to it.
Propeller MCU(s), likely SPIN, possibly C, maybe both.
We can rule out PING, unless we can find some waterproof PINGs. I will go with Sharp IR, IMU, GPS and some other ADC sensors like light and sound. It will need motion detection when sitting still, especially to wake it up if anyone comes near it. Then an MP3 player to play some message about how it is GPS tracked, don't mess with it because the onboard reactor is running away, etc etc.
I would like to get it to be able to follow a magnetic heading, while avoiding obstacles. I don't think GPS waypoint navigation is needed, but this would afford me the chance to play around with it.
XBee Pro 900Mhz radios and/or something cellular. I need suggestions on the cellular part. We'll need to do telemetry as well as the images.
I don't know what to expect inside of the buggy. I can possibly use the Dynamixel MX-28 I have to steer it. If not I will try to salvage a windshield wiper, or a drill motor and clutched chuck, unless someone has a better suggestion. Cheaper is better because we may never see it again.
I plan to use small 12v SLA batteries for now. I have 2 solar panels I might be able to put on it, that can provide up to 150 watts. If that works out I'd be really happy. If I cannot mount the panels due to their size, maybe I can find someone that would trade 2 large panels for 2 smaller panels. I don't think I'd ever use 150 watts, if there are cloudy days it would come in handy. If there are a lot of cloudy days there will need to be a deep sleep mode. It will be impossible to completely kill this thing. I'm not driving 4 hours (round trip) to pick up a bot with dead batteries.
We have to figure out how to send images using XBee and the 3G modem, hopefully using the same camera. It would be great if the camera was IR sensitive for night shots. I have a nice IR illuminator for it. This wouldn't be any fun without the images to go with the telemetry.
Thoughts and suggestions are much appreciated.