The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) vehicles transport food to people in need. To be able to achieve this even over rough terrain, the WFP has been using the SHERP for some time now – a particularly robust ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) that can climb over even the most difficult obstacles with its huge balloon tyres as well as float on water. To make the SHERP usable in places that are too dangerous for a human driver – e.g. due to landmines – the MaiSHU research project was launched. The goal of the developers involved: to make the SHERP remote-controllable.
Sensodrive and DLR close to project completion
As part of the previous project, AHEAD, Sensodrive and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) had already given SHERP the qualities of a Mars rover. The ATV was equipped with perception sensors, depth cameras and a LIDAR system. The steering lever, clutch, accelerator pedal and brakes can now be tele-operated.
In the course of the MaiSHU project, Sensodrive has now also developed a gear-shifting robot that is installed on the SHERP's gear shift and which takes over the gear engagement as a remote-controlled actuator. This means that all the functions required for self-driving can now be controlled remotely via teleoperation – the SHERP is controlled either autonomously via AI or teleoperated with exact haptic feedback by a "driver" sitting safely in a telepresence room. When the MaiSHU project, which is funded by the Bavarian State Ministry, is officially completed in the near future, this will theoretically make it possible to retrofit the entire SHERP fleet.
Sensodrive technology can also be used for other sensitive operating tasks
The newly developed Sensodrive gear-shifting robot uses two SensoJoint actuators, which are connected to the SHERP's gear shift by a rod. The gear engagement is torque-controlled and completely sensitive thanks to the integrated sensor system. "The driver in the telepresence room can feel the gearstick's resistance through their remote control as realistically as if they were in the vehicle themselves," says Sensodrive CEO Norbert Sporer.
The potential applications of the developed technology are huge. "Possible uses include remote-controlled vehicles, telemedicine, as well as clearing landmines, which are unfortunately still a problem today," explains Sporer. "And SensoJoints provide complete sensitivity and precision."