Development of a tabletop guidance system for educational robots

C. W. Bac, T. E. Grift, G. Menezes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The guidance of a vehicle in an outdoor setting is typically implemented using a Real Time Kinematic Global Positioning System (RTK-GPS) potentially enhanced by auxiliary sensors such as electronic compasses, rotation encoders, gyroscopes, and vision systems. Since GPS does not function in an indoor setting where educational competitions are often held, an alternative guidance system was developed. This article describes a guidance method that contains a laser-based localization system, which uses a robot-borne single laser transmitter spinning in a horizontal plane at an angular velocity up to 81 radians per second. Sensor arrays positioned in the corners of a flat rectangular table with dimensions of 1.22 m × 1.83 m detected the laser beam passages. The relative time differences among the detections of the laser passages gave an indication of the angles of the sensors with respect to the laser beam transmitter on the robot. These angles were translated into Cartesian coordinates. The guidance of the robot was implemented using a uni-directional wireless serial connection and position feedback from the localization system. Three experiments were conducted to test the system: 1) the accuracy of the static localization system was determined while the robot stood still. In this test the average error among valid measurements was smaller than 0.3 %. However, a maximum of 3.7 % of the measurements were invalid due to several causes. 2) The accuracy of the guidance system was assessed while the robot followed a straight line. The average deviation from this straight line was 3.6 mm while the robot followed a path with a length of approximately 0.9 m. 3) The overall performance of the guidance system was studied while the robot followed a complex path consisting of 33 sub-paths. The conclusion was that the system worked reasonably accurate, unless the robot came in close proximity (<0.2 m) to one of the sensor arrays where errors occurred due to a high angle of incidence of the laser beam onto the sensor arrays and due to a high tangential velocity of the laser beam at the opposite sensor array. Hence, this article presents a low-cost guidance system which is simple, reliable, and reasonably accurate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-838
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Engineering in Agriculture
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2011


  • Indoor localization
  • Laser localization
  • Laser-based guidance
  • Robot competition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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