Development of Autonomous Hovercraft: Electronics Brian Proulx University of Notre Dame 8-05-2006

An electronic circuit was designed and built to allow the two wireless motes to control the hovercraft’s movement. The hovercraft’s dynamics were also altered to provide a stable platform. The hovercraft was constructed according to the instructions from hovercraft.1 Project Goal 1.com. Problem Formulation 3.1 Blue Hovercraft 4. Discussion and Interpretation of Results 4. Main Measurements and Implementations 3.2 Subgoals 2. Conclusion .1 Blue Hovercraft 3. Shortcomings and Future Work 6. Introduction 1.2 Electrocruiser 5.Abstract The purpose of this experiment was to build a hovercraft and operate it with a wireless beacon.2 Electrocruiser 4. Table of Contents: 1.

the hovercraft would turn left because the . The hovercraft could also call the other hovercrafts in the area to the spot with each sitting down when they found the gradient. All of these hovercrafts would communicate wirelessly with each other and a base station in a swarming principle. with small left and right turns. For the summer. One fan would be on the left side and one fan would be on the right side. The hovercraft was to be part of a larger. later. Also. Various sensors could be attached to the hovercraft in order to detect a certain chemical or radioactive gradient in order to mark its location. hovercraft running at once. This would lead to a hovercraft design that had two fans on the back.1. turning the craft. as many as 20. Also. This way. One would act as the master. and it would receive the slave’s RSSI value from the beacon and compare it to its own RSSI value. If the master’s was higher. So in order to go straight. the very basic principles were to be considered. along with the necessary control circuitry. or send a signal to the base station to mark the location. the hovercrafts themselves needed to be built. Then the hovercraft could either sit down. A method for communicating between the hovercrafts and controlling steering was needed. the hovercrafts would send out a repel signal to keep them from hitting each other while maneuvering. Introduction The purpose of this undergraduate research project was to construct and test an autonomous hovercraft. One fan would always be on. the craft would wiggle its way. One decision was to use two Moteiv Telos B platforms to be placed on each side of the hovercraft. the hovercrafts would form a border around the contaminated area. So many decisions had to be made. design in which there would be several.

1 Project Goal The overall goal of the project was to create a stable hovercraft system that would allow the wireless algorithms to be tested easily. This involved allowing the Telos to control the movement of the hovercraft and a basic implementation of an attractive beacon. Another problem was constructing the Electrocruiser. Mount the Telos motes on the hovercraft 4. Finalize the hovercraft dynamics for ideal performance 2. So all of the individual parts had to be cut out and assembled. the slave’s RSSI value was higher than the master’s.2 Subgoals 1. And the design had to be altered because the instructions called for a single thrust fan with a rudder to propel the craft. Build the hovercraft 2. Design and construct a circuit to control the hovercraft 3. Only the basic components were shipped. A circuit had to be designed and built to electronically connect the Telos and the lift and thrust motors. the hovercraft would turn right. So a new design for the back of the craft to support two thrust fans and no rudder was required. In the other case.master was on the left of the hovercraft. . 1. Problem Formulation The first problem considered was how to allow the Telos motes to control the movement of the hovercraft. 1.

Hovercraft Data: Fully charged. It was used as a test platform to test the circuitry and the overall project concept.6V 700mAh battery .1 Blue Hovercraft: The first hovercraft used was a small toy hovercraft from Tyco. next to each other. slave. 3. The lift fan is located in the middle of the hovercraft. A large problem was the code. the Telos motes must be physically mounted onto the hovercraft.Also. New code had to be written for the master. and beacon. It has two fans located in the back. Main Measurements and Implementations 3. 9.

The clear answer is to have the Telos drive relays which then switch the motors to the batteries. that is. The ideal transistor to use was a MOSFET because it required no static power dissipation from the output pins. Two output ports were used from the Telos. The other is to switch between the left fan and the right fan. and the 3 V output from the two AA batteries would drive the relays. So the switch was made to bipolar junction transistors. but the parts we had would not work.Left Thrust Fan Right Thrust Fan Lift Motor 2. The relays chosen required at least 20 mA each to switch. So the final circuit design looks like this: . The output ports of the Telos would drive the base. So it is clear that the Telos output pins would be the input to a transistor. how can the Telos steer the hovercraft.820 A 2. both pins together cannot exceed 12 mA since that is the maximum allowed through the Telos.791 A 1. However. one is set high to turn the lift fan and turning fans on. with the actual current running through the transistor being supplied by the two AA batteries powering the Telos.380 A So the problem becomes how to connect the Telos to the hovercraft.

Soldered into the hovercraft: .

5 A . the Electrocruiser’s motors are much stronger. and only one will be on at a time. the coil requires 18 mA but has a resistance of 500 ohms. However.070 2. Measurements: Fully charged 7. This requires a new relay to handle the increased current. And the new relay is driven by a smaller LU-5 relay which can be driven by the Telos pin and 3 V. However. However. the principles are largely the same. for the limited scope of this experiment. Also.Measurements: Current Location Q1 base Q2 base Q1 collector Q2 collector 3. the control is still the same.0 A 9. The Telos will still be mounted opposite each other with copper plates between each other. So a 9V battery had to be added. the main lift fan was hardwired to a switch. which can switch up to 12 A. So the hovercraft is able to carry more and move much faster. The new relay is from Radioshack.2 Electrocruiser This hovercraft is much larger and more powerful than the smaller toy one. so neither 3 V nor 7. Two turning fans are in back.432 21.0 A 7. Also.072 21.2 V was enough to switch the relay.2V 1700mAh battery Current Value (mA) 2.472 Left Motor Right Motor Lift Motor 9. model 275-005. and the Telos only switched between left and right motors.

So the new circuit looks like this: .

Also. only pulling 4. the current through the first relay would be Current Value (mA) 2.1 Blue Hovercraft This design allows for the Telos pins to drive the base of the transistors. so the maximum current through any contact is 2. so anything less than saturation would not switch the relay. where the current is limited by the coil in the relay only. The Zettler relays are important because they are double switch relays. this is enough to put the NPN transistors into saturation.820 A. This is important because the relay is at the very edge of switching. This means that the contacts can switch the main lift fan and the two turning fans independently.054 20.142 mA from the Telos circuitry.Measurements: Current Location Q1 base Q1 collector 9V battery 4. Discussion and Interpretation of Results 4. which is well below the maximum value. If the relays were single relays. which means there are two switches inside of them.043 18.052 .

These four wires are: Telos pin 1. 3V positive. right motor. it is necessary to put it in the watertight compartment where the original remote control circuitry was. and glued to make it watertight. and Telos pin 2. At first. The main motor is controlled within the compartment. Then a Styrofoam . and 3V negative. a paper clip was cut in half. heated by the soldering iron until it slid through the compartment. But there are 7 outputs of the circuit: battery ground.200 A. To connect this circuit to the hovercraft. to connect to the Telos.4. but this caused the hovercraft to tip forward too far. they were placed on platforms attached to the very front. which is well above the rated value. Telos 3V positive. Telos 3V negative. Two of these can be used for other purposes by grounding the two fans to one pin. That compartment has 5 outputs. The final result looks like this: So then wires running from the circuit are fed through the old antenna hole above the circuit. left motor. The capacitors are added only to prevent inductive kickback from the motors from damaging the transistors. Telos pin 1. large metal pins sticking out the top. So to add the two pins. To physically place the Telos on the hovercraft is difficult because most of the hovercraft is curved. and removing the antenna. Telos pin 2.

and the Telos were more stable. This allowed for a better balance of the hovercraft. but it established a base circuit design which was easily modified to fit the larger hovercraft. So it may seem like a failure. a copper plate is inserted in the middle of the block as electromagnetic shielding. This is the location of the block: The blue hovercraft lacked sufficient motor power and battery time to adequately test the Telos system. and the Telos. Then. 4.block was cut out. were inserted into it.2 Electrocruiser . with battery packs connected by wires now.

2 V. The important thing to notice in the diagram is the different grounds since there are 3 different power supplies. and 3V to the circuit. the craft lacked sufficient power to turn and resist the wind.This circuit allows for the Telos to drive the left and right motors. Telos Slave. Also. This does cause the hovercraft to list to one side. However. The main fan and power to the turning fans are hard wired to a 16 A switch to control power. rather than the Telos because they tended to snap off when the device was inserted into the Styrofoam. There are three connectors running off the batteries: Telos Master. All of the connections are to the battery holder. to reduce weight. which then switches a 9V on to drive the larger relay. This is the soldering on the battery holder: . the Telos drives a smaller relay. The diodes were used to reduce power to the thrust fans for one experiment. So the thrust fans run off the full 7. both Telos devices run off of a single set of AA batteries. In the experiment. but this is easily offset by sliding the main battery slightly to the other side.

which caused it to over steer. on each side of the main housing. . A good thing that resulted from this design is that basic testing could be done without running the motors because the click of the relays connecting and disconnecting was audible.There was Styrofoam glued to each copper plate. The two slots for the USB side of the Telos hold the devices now. this did not work as well because it received fewer false signals. to hold the Telos with the antenna pointed inward. However. the 9V battery. but that was the only part available. So the circuit performed very well. It was not ideal to add a third power supply. solely to power the new relay.

The entire back plate wobbles.5. An H bridge to reduce the battery voltage to 3V to drive the transistors would eliminate one power source. This would also eliminate the need for the 9V battery. It requires three different power sources to work. another source of weight. 6. So the final design was very important. especially since it can be easily adapted to future designs. The design of a . Also. and many mistakes were made. the electronics would generally carry over to the new design. Shortcomings and Future Work One large shortcoming is the blue hovercraft. Another shortcoming is the basic design of the Electrocruiser circuit. like in the toy hovercraft. which makes accurate control and modeling very difficult. Another problem is that everything needs to be permanently installed into the hovercraft. Another shortcoming was the Electrocruiser itself. Also. The circuit and battery need permanent fixtures to allow for balancing the weight and accurate modeling. It no longer serves a purpose since it is underpowered. Another shortcoming is the fact that a smaller relay was needed to drive the larger relay. the system itself is not very stable. and the circuit diagram would look very similar to the blue hovercraft’s diagram. a better relay that could be driven by the transistor could be used. A totally different hovercraft would help greatly. Ideally. Also. Many different approaches were attempted. This would be an easy implementation. the Telos needs to be able to control the lift fan as well. The construction of the craft is very prone to error. Conclusion The first milestone reached was the final design of the circuit.

which would improve the handling of the hovercraft. the work of working on the dynamics of the hovercraft and the code was possible.transistor as a simple switch to control the relay to control the fans is important. Also. 7. Another is to change from simple left/right control to a single thrust motor that can rotate. Appendix Parts list for Blue Hovercraft circuit: 2 2N2222A bjt transistors: 2 1kOhm resistors 2 1uF capacitors 2 Zettler AZ831 relays: . The circuit could also be changed to be more simple and streamlined. This took a large amount of time and effort. especially redesigning the back of the hovercraft. One is to use a new hovercraft. one that is stable and easier to build and operate. Another milestone was the construction of the Electrocruiser. Future improvements are many. switching from a simple two Telos design to a design with a single Telos to locate beacons would be an improvement. Once that was done. The final milestone was implementing the circuit design in the Electrocruiser.

Parts list for Electrocruiser circuit: 2 PN2222A bjt transistors: 2 1uF capacitors 2 1kOhm resistors 1 LU-5 relay: 1 275-005 Radioshack relay: .

used only once.Diodes (used to test smaller voltages to turning fans. shown for completeness) .

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