Ready for aid deliveries to all crisis areas

The remote-controlled all-terrain vehicle from Sensodrive and DLR is ready for use and was presented at the Volkach military training area.

"Multimodal perception and human-machine interfaces of semi-autonomous intelligent systems for humanitarian aid in uncertain and unstructured environments" (MaiSHU) – rarely has a name for a Sensodrive research project been as unwieldy as in this case.
The goal of the project, which has now been completed as part of a major live demo, was as simple as it was valuable: To develop a driverless vehicle that can be used to bring relief supplies to crisis areas without risk to people.

The MaiSHU project – the United Nations' all-terrain vehicles will be able to operate without a driver.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) vehicles transport food to people in need as a matter of urgency. 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 was to make the SHERP remote-controllable.

Successful test deployment at the military training area in Volkach.
As part of a large-scale live demo, the fully developed, driverless SHERP was presented to the public on 25 June, 2024 at the military training area in Volkach and was able to prove its operational capability with flying colours. In just 15 minutes, the remote-controlled all-terrain vehicle mastered the challenging test track, which was peppered with numerous obstacles.

The SHERP vehicle was remotely controlled throughout the entire journey from a mobile control centre that served as the "Local Mission Operation Centre" (LMOC). The "driver" had no direct visual contact with the test track and received all the necessary track information from the SHERP's cameras and sensors. Thanks to a haptic-intelligent force feedback input station with Sensodrive components, he was able to manoeuvre as precisely and sensitively as if he were sitting in the vehicle himself.

Perfect remote control thanks to technology from Sensodrive and DLR.

As part of the previous project, AHEAD, Sensodrive and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) had already given SHERP the qualities of a Mars rover. The ATV was equipped with perception sensors, depth cameras and a LIDAR system. Sensodrive has developed a haptic-intelligent force feedback input station that can be used to operate the steering lever, clutch, accelerator pedal and brakes completely remotely.

In the current MaiSHU project, Sensodrive has now implemented a gearshift robot that is installed on the gearshift lever of the SHERP and acts as a remote-controlled actuator for engaging the gears. In addition, the ignition, the dashboard switches and the tyre pressure control were also made remotely controllable. This means that all functions required for driverless driving can now be controlled via teleoperation. The SHERP is ready for use.

High-precision teleoperation thanks to the innovative SensoJoint actuator.

The sensitive, torque-controlled SensoJoint complete drives from Sensodrive are installed in both the input station and the actuators in the vehicle. Thanks to their market-leading torque technology, they enable absolutely precise mechanical execution of all control commands in the vehicle, while at the same time giving the "driver" at the input station 100% realistic haptic feedback on all operating processes. The driver in the telepresence room can feel the resistance of the gearshift, steering, brake and accelerator pedal on his remote control as realistically as if he were sitting in the vehicle himself.

Sensodrive technology can also be used for other sensitive operating tasks

The potential applications of the developed technology are manifold. Remote control of vehicles, telemedicine applications and mine defusing are all potential areas of application. And Sensodrive's existing force feedback products – such as the numerous high-end simulator products – also benefit from the findings in this research project.

Outlook for the future: Deployment planned in South Sudan.

After the successful completion of the MaiSHU project, the next step will be to test the technology in real-world use. In South Sudan, the WHO has been operating a fleet of 19 SHERP vehicles for about two years, whose drivers sometimes expose themselves to great danger when delivering relief supplies.
Our vision is the driverless and therefore safe transport of relief supplies – reliably and with high precision controlled by teleoperation.