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Open source, Raspberry Pi based robot mimics a Martian rover

Oct 9, 2017 — by Eric Brown 5,474 views

The remote-controlled, four-wheel “Turtle Rover” runs on a RPi 3, and offers a gripper, HD camera, and up to four-hour rides within a 200-meter WiFi range.

A Polish startup called Kell Ideas, founded by roboticists who created Martian rover prototypes at Wroclaw University of Technology, has won Indiegogo funding for a rover-like open source robot. The four-wheel Turtle Rover can be remotely controlled via WiFi, and runs Linux on a Raspberry Pi 3 equipped with a HAT board.

Turtle Rover shown rolling through puddles and over rocks
(click images to enlarge)

The rover is ideal for exploring caves, ruins, and other tight places, and can be adapted for use with MilSim simulated combat games, says Kell Ideas. Unlike the similarly open source, Raspberry Pi 3 based, but dual-wheeled TurtleBot3, the Turtle Rover is intended only for remote control rather than semi-autonomous operation.

The Turtle Rover Indiegogo campaign has exceeded its funding, and is currently at $82,000. The robot car costs $990 in kit form, with shipments due in April 2018. The kit requires that you bring your own Raspberry Pi, battery, WiFi modem and antenna, and some other components, several of which can be 3D printed (see parts list farther below).


Alternatively, you can spend $1,972 for an assembled model due in June 2018 that’s discounted $350 from the retail price. If that seems like too long a wait, the assembled package pledge includes a free half-hour session in which Kell Ideas lets you remotely control one of their Turtle Rovers over the Internet following a short briefing.

Turtle Rover detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The 460 x 410 x 270mm Turtle Rover weighs 8 Kilograms, and can be carried on a backpack. The four 130mm wheels can climb over obstacles up to 130mm in height with the help of 4x in-hub DC motors and a 3-stage planetary gearbox. The robot can carry a 5 Kg payload.

Turtle Rover technical specs
(click image to enlarge)

The Li-Ion 6S (22,2 V) 2100 mAh battery supports up to four hours of driving, with two-hour charging time. The robot is constructed using aluminum, stainless steel, and plastic parts, and is said to be waterproof per IP67, although it lacks official certification.

Turtle Rover kit components (left) and mobile app
(click images to enlarge)

You can control the robot remotely at up to 200 meters via any web-connected device using the Raspberry Pi’s 2.4GHz WiFi connection. A touchscreen-ready Turtle App provides status, camera controls, and an emergency stop button.

Turtle Rover
on backpack

The robot’s 2-megapixel camera (CMOS OV2710) provides HD livestreaming within the full 200-meter range, and supports still shots. The camera is equipped with a 180-degree fisheye lens with 0.5 lux support.

The Turtle Rover’s robotic arm has 2 Degrees of Freedom (DoF) motion, and offers reverse XY kinematics. The arm has an up to 180mm back-front range and up to 300mm down-up range. An attached gripper can lift 500 grams, with the help of the arm’s 3x D3015 type servo-motors.

The Raspberry Pi 3 based control computer is enabled with a “Turtle-hat” HAT extension equipped with a STM32F100C8T6 microcontroller that supports STM32 wireless programming. The HAT controls rover motors, power management, and the “in/out bus,” says Kell Ideas. User-accessible interfaces include a USB port, Ethernet port, SPI and UART interfaces, and 3x timer outputs and counter inputs. There are 2x 7V/2 A outputs, as well as single 24V/3 A and 5V/1 A outputs.

Turtle Rover CAD file (left) and tutorial shot showing how to connect a RPi 3
(click images to enlarge)

The Turtle Rover can be augmented with sensors, 360-degree cameras, LIDAR equipment, headlights, Arduino boards, and other custom electronics. It supports the addition of a Microsoft Kinect device that can detect people and follow them around. The robot’s software and circuit files are open sourced under an MIT-license, while the CAD and design files use Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Turtle Rover explores underground

Further information

The Turtle Rover is available on Indiegogo in a $990 kit, with shipments due in April 2018. You can also buy a $1,972 assembled package due in June 2018 that’s discounted $350 from the retail price. More information may be found at the Turtle Rover Indiegogo page, GitHub page, and community website, where several tutorials have been posted.

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