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 ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.