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Open Source Wireless Mobile Robot with Video for Telepresence, Autonomous and Swarm Operation

posted Jun 23, 2011, 6:01 PM by Cesar Harada

Surveyor SRV-1 Blackfin Robot 
Open Source Wireless Mobile Robot with Video for Telepresence, Autonomous and Swarm Operation

Designed for research, education, and exploration, Surveyor's SRV-1 internet-controlled robot employs theSRV-1 Blackfin Camera Board with 1000MIPS 500MHz Analog Devices Blackfin BF537 processor, a digital video camera with resolution from 160x128 to 1280x1024 pixels, laser pointer or optional ultrasonic ranging, and WLAN 802.11b/g networking on a quad-motor tracked mobile robotic base. 

Operating as a remotely-controlled webcam or a self-navigating autonomous robot, the SRV-1 can run onboard interpreted C programs or user-modified firmware, or be remotely managed from a Windows, Mac OS/X or Linux base station with Python or Java-based console software. The Java-based console software includes a built-in web server to monitor and control the SRV-1 via a web browser from anywhere in the world, as well as archive video feeds on demand or on a scheduled basis. Additional software support for the SRV-1 is also available by way of RoboRealm machine vision softwareMicrosoft Robotics Studio, andCyberbotic's Webots

  • Open Source design with full access to source code (GPL) and schematics
  • Robot is fully programmable for autonomous operation
  • Extensive software support through 3rd party applications
  • Teleoperate mode to drive robot around via console software or remotely via web browser
  • Host software has built-in web server and video archiving
  • Robot can run programs written in interpreted C and stored in onboard Flash
  • Wireless remote control or viewing up to 100m indoors and 1000m outdoors (line of sight)
  • Robot can be controlled from a terminal/console for easy testing
  • Linux 2.6 support as well as "bare metal" programming with GNU bfin-elf-gcc

  • Processor: 1000mips 500MHz Analog Devices Blackfin BF537, 32MB SDRAM, 4MB Flash, JTAG
  • Camera: Omnivision OV9655 1.3 megapixel 160x128 to 1280x1024 resolution
  • Robot Radio: Lantronix Matchport 802.11b/g WiFi
  • Range: 100m indoors, 1000m line-of-site
  • Sensors: 2 laser pointers for ranging, support for up to 4 Maxbotics ultrasonic ranging modules and various I2C sensors
  • Drive: Tank-style treads with differential drive via four precision DC gearmotors (100:1 gear reduction)
  • Speed: 20cm - 40cm per second (approx 1 foot/sec or .5 mile/hour)
  • Chassis: Machined Aluminum
  • Dimensions: 120mm long x 100mm wide x 80mm tall (5" x 4" x 3")
  • Weight: 350gm (12oz)
  • Power: 7.2V 2AH Li-poly battery pack - 4+ hours per charge
  • Charger: 100-240VAC 50/60Hz (US plug)

  • Robot Firmware: easily updated, written in C language under GPL Open Source, compiled with GNU bfin-elf-gcc and bfin-uclinux-gcc toolchains
  • Onboard User Programming: interpreter for "small C" language with special robot-specific commands are provided for running user programs from onboard Flash memory
  • Development Tools: GNU toolchains via
  • Console Software: Java based application, runs on Windows, MAC, Linux. WebcamSat web server module built into console software, allows multiple simultaneous remote viewers via Internet
  • Robot Control Protocol: Published here. Easily used from other applications
  • Third-party Software Support:
    • RoboRealm - - The SRV-1 can now be directly controlled from RoboRealm, a very popular Windows-based machine vision software package for robots. The RoboRealm extensions for SRV-1 allow creation of scripts that combine image processing on live video feeds from the robot, e.g. color filtering, blob detection/tracking, edge detection/outlining and feature extraction, with decision processing and robot motion control, making it easy to create behaviors such as object location and tracking, obstacle avoidance, motion detection, notification, etc, with a web interface, and control can be scripted from C/C++, Python, Java, C#, Lisp, Visual Basic, WScript and COM through the RoboRealm API.
    • Microsoft Robotics Studio - - Drivers for the SRV-1 in Microsoft Robotics Studio are now available. MSRS is a Windows-based environment for academic, hobbyist and commercial developers to create robotics applications across a wide variety of hardware. Key features and benefits include: end-to-end robotics development platform, lightweight services-oriented runtime, and a scalable / extensible platform. 
    • Webots - - SRV-1 support is now included in Webots mobile robotics simulation software. Webots provides a rapid prototyping environment for modelling, programming and simulating mobile robots under Windows, Mac OS/X and Linux. The 3D modeling and physics are outstanding.

Additional Resources

Just to get some perspective on the size of the SRV-1 Blackfin Robot, here is a photo of the robot held by someone with a normal sized hand (medium-large male glove -

Here's a 35Mb Quicktime clip of the SRV-1 Blackfin featured in a CNBC news clip about the Google Lunar X Prize. Click on the image to launch a viewer ... 

The SRV-1 Blackfin Robot was featured in Robot Magazine Issue #13

Here's a 2.3Mb Quicktime clip of 4 SRV-1's operating in close proximity in "wander mode". The robots are controlled by a single base station on a common radio channel using new "swarm mode" commands defined in the SRV-1 communication protocol. Click on the image to launch a viewer ... 

Here's a 1.2Mb Quicktime clip of the SRV-1 in action, climbing a 40-degree slope with approximately 50% motor power. Click on the image to launch a viewer ...