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Clearpath Hits Husky With Shrink Ray, Announces Jackal UGV

It's small, it's fast, and it might even be affordable

2 min read
Clearpath Hits Husky With Shrink Ray, Announces Jackal UGV
Photo: Clearpath Robotics

Last year, Clearpath Robotics thought to themselves, "Hey, Husky is cool, but let's make something bigger, because bigger is awesome." So they made Grizzly, an 850-kilogram super size, super strength unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). This year, Clearpath Robotics thought to themselves, "Hey, Husky is cool, but let's make something smaller, because smaller is awesome." So they made Jackal, a 17-kilogram bite size, affordable little UGV that won't utterly destroy your research lab if you try to drive it indoors.

Jackal was officially introduced over the weekend at the ROS Developer Conference (ROSCon), which was held in Chicago just before the kickoff of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), where we are now!

It's easy to look at Jackal as a miniaturized Husky, and in a lot of ways, that's exactly what you're getting. At 17 kilograms, Jackal weighs less than half as much as Husky's 50 kilograms, and is about half the physical size as well. You'll still get two hours of runtime (that's typical; you'll eke out eight hours maximum) out of the 26-volt, 9.8-amp hour lithium ion battery, and it's still rugged enough to take whatever you can throw at it, with big squishy tires, 4x4 drive, all metal construction, and weatherproofing.

For the small size of this robot, it's scarily quick. It's software-limited to a top speed of 2 meters per second, because when it's not, it can flip itself over in turns and do wheelies if you punch the accelerator too hard. Another useful feature: integrated mounting plates. These let you swap out payloads quickly and easy without having to completely disassemble all of your hardware.

This speaks to what Jackal is all about: like just about everything that Clearpath makes, Jackal is designed from the ground up for you to turn into your own project. It'll feed power to your hardware with interfaces up to 24 volts at 20 amps, and comes fully compatible with ROS, so it's ready to rock with any family of ROS-compatible sensors.

So, Jackal is smaller than Husky, which is nice, if you have an application that doesn't need something quite so big. And if you have a budget that can't handle something big, Jackal is cheaper, too. Clearpath hasn't settled on what exactly the price is for the new robot (and the bot we saw at ROSCon is just a prototype), but they're expecting that it'll settle somewhere in the high four figures to low five figures.

At first glance, it may seem like Jackal isn't that much cheaper than Husky, but the difference is that Jackal comes with all kinds of guts already inside, whereas with Husky, you just get what's necessary to control the robot, nothing more. All things considered, Jackal works out to be about half the price, not just half the size.

Jackal includes an entire Mini-ITX PC with an Intel i5 processor and a discrete graphics card (for vision processing), as well as GPS, an IMU, wireless, and all the charging infrastructure you need. Adding all that stuff to Husky adds a significant cost, so you really are saving a bunch of money by going with Jackal instead.

More details at the link below.

[ Clearpath Jackal ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
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This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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