Network Enabled Resource Devices (NERDs) combine the most common electronic components used in robotic applications into a standard electronics box with "plug-n-play" capabilities. Risk reduction efforts, systems testing and integration, and modifying the functionality of evolving systems becomes greatly simplified by standardizing core hardware and software components; in many cases, minimal software modifications are required to adapt an existing NERD for an emergent application.

Internal components include an integral DC-DC converter, a wireless bridge and hub allowing point-to-multipoint communications, an audio/video hardware CODEC, a RISC-based processor with FPGA-based I/O, and a GPS receiver. NERDs can accept 12-36 VDC to power all components and are compatible with standard military batteries.

Two 8-pin input/output data ports connected directly to the embedded processor allow for a range of control flexibility in a variety of applications. Implementations to date include controlling a non-lethal weapons pod on a robot, an intelligent garage-door opener for the exterior robot refueling area, a communications/ GPS module for a security team response vehicle, and an embedded controller for intruder-detection systems.

Benefits of a standard design for an electronics box include:

  • Standardized production units. To modify the functionality of a NERD only the firmware needs to be reprogrammed.
  • Interchangeability/interoperability. NERDs are self-contained and support "plug-and-play" of payloads, subsystems, and platforms.
  • Reduced testing costs. Systems used in risk reduction efforts for large, expensive robots can be tested on small, inexpensive robots using the same interfaces.

The NERDs have two DC-DC converters in them. Both can have 9-36 VDC inputs; one supplies 5 VDC output and the other supplies 12 VDC output. NERDs should be as small as possible; the size of the box is determined mainly by the size of the components that go in it, and to a lesser degree by ease of use and ability to troubleshoot the box. The current box used is 9 × 12 × 4.4".

The NERDs can be swapped out on an as-needed basis. Two NERDs having the same software programmed into them are interchangeable with minimal effort. The wireless bridges in the NERDs have the ability to act as point-to-multipoint repeaters. In this regard, the NERD performs a dual function: when deployed, it provides a robotics capability for the particular application, and it can increase the range of the WLAN by acting as a network repeater. The WLAN components support operation of the Multiple Resource Host Architecture (MRHA). This is very important as the MRHA has the ability to control a variety of the robotics platforms using protocols based on Ethernet UDP/IP and TCP/IP.

This work was done by Thomas Denewiler and Robin T. Laird of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center.


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Network-Enabled Resource Devices

(reference SNWSC-0001) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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