Turtle Rover Offers Open Source System for Earth Exploration
Tom Spendlove posted on August 25, 2017 | 1687 views

The team behind the Turtle Rover started in 2012 working on Mars rover prototypes at the Wroclaw University of Technology. After working on the FREDE and DREAM projects for space missions the group decided to develop an open source project for makers. The Turtle Rover is their project, an open source remote control rover designed for Earth exploration.

Turtle is controlled with an app used mainly for driving and image capture. The maximum range is around 200 meters. WiFi is 2.4 GigaHertz and the battery has been tested for up to four hours of use per charge. A 2 MegaPixel CMOS OV2710 camera attached to the body has a fisheye lens giving 180 degree vision and 0.5 lux.

The body of the drone is 460 x 410 millimeters with a 195 millimeter height before the gripper arm is attached to the top of the unit. The weight is around 8 kilograms with an expected payload capacity of 5 kilograms. Most of the body is built from 5754 and 2017A aluminum (the website uses the 3.1325 and 3.3535 designations). Additional components are built from stainless steel, ABS or PLA.

Turtle’s four wheels are 130 millimeters in diameter, and driven with four DC motors through a three stage planetary gearbox. The robot arm has two degrees of freedom and three D3015 servo motors. Several connections are available on Turtle’s body to honor the commitment to open source.  Ethernet, USB, UART, SPI, 7 Volt 2 Amp, 24 Volt 3 Amp, and 5 Volt 1 Amp connectors are all ready for users. The base controller system was written using Raspberry Pi 3B platform and an STM32 processor.

Building a new platform for rovers is ambitious but this Wroclaw team is using control systems and platforms they’ve previously tested and run. The open source commitment is a huge benefit for me as different makers and programmers can add personalized functions to the base Turtle. The files for the rover are already available on GitHub and users can register for the design files once they become available. Developer kits that include components to build the rover and require the user to supply electronics cost around $1760, and fully assembled Kickstarter special Turtles are listed at $1936. The Kickstarter campaign ends on September 24 and if successful units will ship between April and June 2018. The nice thing about the team’s commitment to open source is that even if this crowdfunding effort doesn’t work, the plans and code will be online for ambitious makers to build their own Turtles.

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