This paper presents a self-reconfigurable modular robot with an integrated two degrees-of-freedom (DOF) active docking mechanism. Active docking in modular robotic systems has received a lot of interest recently as it allows small versatile robotic systems to coalesce and achieve the structural benefits of large systems. This feature enables reconfigurable modular robotic systems to bridge the gap between small agile systems and larger robotic systems. The proposed self-reconfigurable mobile robot design exhibits dual mobility using a tracked drive for longitudinal locomotion and a wheeled drive for lateral locomotion. The 2-DOF docking interface allows for efficient docking while tolerating misalignments. To aid autonomous docking, visual marker-based tracking is used to detect and re-position the source robot relative to the target robot. The tracked features are then used in Image-Based Visual Servoing to bring the robots close enough for the docking procedure. The hybrid-tracking algorithm allows eliminating external pixelated noise in the image plane resulting in higher tracking accuracy along with faster frame update on a low-cost onboard computational device. This paper presents the overall mechanical design and the integration details of the modular robotic module with the docking mechanism. An overview of the autonomous tracking and docking algorithm is presented along with a proof-of-concept real-world demonstration of autonomous docking and self-reconfigurability. Experimental results to validate the robustness of the proposed tracking method, as well as the reliability of the autonomous docking procedure, are also presented.
Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics Open Issues