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Issue 9: Ground Applications

The Grand Challenge of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)

The Grand Challenge was an event hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to spur technological growth in the area of autonomous ground vehicles after a congressional mandate ordering one-third of all military ground vehicles be autonomous by 2015. The use of unmanned vehicles in the battlefield will enhance the efficiency of operations, while more importantly removing the soldier from a perilous environment.

The 2005 Grand Challenge was a 132 mile course in the desert near Primm, Nevada. The course traversed graded desert roads, dry lake beds, and narrow mountain passes, all of which had natural or man made obstacles along the way.

The vehicles participating in the event contained a fusion of perception and localization sensors to navigate through the course and avoid any obstacles along the way. There was a variety of perception sensors on the vehicles, such as radar, lidar, ultrasonic sensors, cameras, or a combination thereof. Different localization sensors were used among the vehicles, such as inertial measurement units (IMU), wheel speed sensors, Doppler radar, and on board vehicle sensors, but all vehicles contained at least one GPS receiver. DARPA predefined the race route with a series of waypoints and maximum speeds. Individual teams interpolated DARPA's waypoints to generate a set of meter spaced waypoints along the same route. The GPS receiver, combined with an IMU in most cases, was used to inform the vehicle of its position an orientation so the controller could successfully drive from waypoint to waypoint.

For more information on the Grand Challenge events, please see the following DARPA websites:


  • The video of the vehicle made by Auburn University is under construction.


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