Planetary rovers need high mobility on a rough terrain such as sandy soil, because such a terrain often impedes the rover mobility and causes significant wheel slip. Therefore, the accurate estimation of wheel soil interaction characteristics is an important issue. Recent studies related to wheel soil interaction mechanics have revealed that the classical wheel model has not adequately addressed the actual interaction characteristics observed through experiments. This article proposes an in-wheel sensor system equipped with two sensory devices on the wheel surface: force sensors that directly measure the force distribution between the wheel and soil and light sensors that accurately detect the wheel soil surface boundary line. This sensor design enables the accurate measurement of wheel terrain interaction characteristics such as wheel force distribution, wheel-soil contact angles, and wheel sinkage when the powered wheel runs on loose sand. In this article, the development of the in-wheel sensor system is introduced along with its system diagram and sensor modules. The usefulness of the in-wheel sensor system is then experimentally evaluated via a single wheel test bench. The experimental results confirm that explicit differences can be observed between the classical wheel model and practical data measured by the in-wheel sensor system.
ASJC Scopus subject areas