February 2009 Meeting Summary

On February 18, 2009, the Southern California Chapter of the ION held a meeting, hosted by NavCom in Torrance, CA. The meeting included a presentation from Dr. Bob Norris of John Deere on an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) named the R-Gator. 28 people were in attendance for the meeting. A short biography and abstract of the meeting follows, and the slides and video used during the meeting are attached.

Following the talk, Chuck Morton, NavCom’s Manager of StarFire System Operations, provided a short guided tour of the StarFire Network Data Processing and Control Center. The StarFire Network gathers information from GPS monitoring receivers around the world and constructs differential corrections and integrity monitoring of the GPS satellite system, in real time. These corrections and health data are broadcast around the world via a network of 6 INMARSAT satellites. StarFire equipped GPS receiver routinely achieve 0.1 m or better navigation performance. The Torrance Control Center is one of two completely-redundant processing centers that have allowed the StarFire Network achieve better than 99.9% up time

Capsule Biography of Dr. William R. Norris
William R. (Bob) Norris is currently the Business Manager of a John Deere robotic product known as the “R-Gator”. In this role, he is performing the functions of Business Development, Marketing, Sales, Program Management, Service and Support. He has been with the product since its inception. Bob has previously served as a researcher, systems engineer, program engineer, program manager and now business manager.

Bob received his BS, MS and PhD degrees at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where he worked at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA). His focus was in Control Systems, Systems Engineering and Artificial Intelligence. He recently completed his MBA at Duke University, focusing on General Management and High Tech Marketing. Bob was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in Operation Desert Storm.

Abstract of Dr. Norris’s Talk
Slides: R-Gator Presentation
The R-Gator (Robotic Gator) is an advanced ground vehicle system, capable of robust operations in both manned and unmanned modes. The combat proven John Deere M-Gator serves as the basic mobility platform, allowing existing logistics, maintenance, and training investments to be leveraged for reduced cost and ease of deployment. The R-Gator’s capabilities include manual operation, several forms of tele-operation via joystick, map based GPS waypoint navigation and path teaching and playback.

The primary objective of the R-Gator system is to remove the user from hazardous, non-combat related missions. The ability to perform a variety of robotic utility tasks, in hostile environments and over complex terrain, reduces the users’ exposure to hazards. The secondary objective of the R-Gator system is to serve as a host for payloads. Under its current configuration, the R-Gator provides payload space, 1400lb carrying capacity, a limited power supply, an ethernet and CAN interface for access to vehicle network communications.

Bob will provide an update on the R-Gator program. He will also discuss the challenges involved in the localization and navigation of a large (1400lb) unmanned ground vehicle and how Deere’s solutions enable the accurate localization, navigation, obstacle detection and avoidance of the R-Gator.