The senior design students in the Mechanical Engineering department at The Catholic University of America are developing an autonomous hovercraft for deploying landmine detection equipment into mined environments. The program is planned to have two components. The first components began in the spring of 2007 and will continue until May of 2008 coinciding with the academic year. This effort has been and will continue to be a student project. In the first component, students will demonstrate the feasibility of the concept by designing and constructing a prototype capable of maneuvering independently and autonomously navigating a course over a pre-defined area. The craft’s computer will produce a post survey analysis of the investigated area and report the location of suspicious objects in the survey. This first component is seen as a proof of concept.
The second component, running through summer 2008, will focus on refining the control and navigation systems to address stability, optimal coverage, obstacle avoidance, and operation under adverse conditions including damage to the craft and more extreme terrain. A graduate student responsible for the control system will be working with the seniors on these issues. These systems are critical to the deploying a viable system and will require additional efforts. In this second phase, the team will consist of an interdisciplinary group of undergraduates, one full-time graduate student, and the faculty. The team will design, test and implement an optimized control and navigation system and demonstrate an improved prototype hovercraft.
CUA Team's Background Document on Landmines Around the World