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The Autonomous Radio-controlled Ground-basEd Target (TARGET)
Keywords: autonomous ground vehicle
(Commenced: 01-Jan-2007,Concluded: 12-Dec-2008)
This honours project involved the development, from concept to realisation, of a full-scale autonomous ground "target" vehicle called the The Autonomous Radio-controlled Ground-basEd Target or its corresponding acronym, The TARGET. This challenging and innovative project was carried out by a team of nine Undergraduate Mechatronic and Mechanical Engineering students from The University of Adelaide in South Australia for the partial fulfilment of their final year Bachelor of Engineering study in 2007. The TARGET vehicle was designed to provide a safe, tightly budgeted, unmanned moving ground target for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) project being undertaken by Thales Australia, which is the Australian branch of a major international defence corporation. In order to fulfil this application, the TARGET project was designed around the key objective of developing a safe ground target vehicle system that was capable of switching between normal human driving, remote control and autonomous control modes of operation.
The resulting TARGET solution comprises the core complementary elements of Actuation, Radio Frequency (RF) Communications, State Measurement and Estimation, Onboard Computer Systems, Autonomous Guidance Control, Motion Execution Control, Base Station and Graphical User Interface (GUI), and Safety. It should be noted that the implementation of autonomous obstacle avoidance strategies was deemed to be beyond the scope of the project due to monetary and time constraints, and though it would have been a welcome and desirable addition, it was not necessary for the achievement of the project objectives or for the development of an effective autonomous ground target vehicle suited to the specified application.
The scale and complexity of this project was substantial for a final year Undergraduate Engineering project in the time-frame of a single year and an allocation of only a third of the total final year educational workload. Nevertheless, despite a myriad of unforeseen challenges and an ambitious project contract of agreed goals and specifications, the TARGET vehicle achieved completion and its operation was proven through on-the-road testing representative of its intended application. Ultimately, this testing included verification of on-the-fly switching between normal human driving, remote control and autonomous control modes of operation.