So, having spent the last couple of years experimenting with UAV systems I felt the need to try something that would stay on the ground. I have been fascinated by rock crawlers, the latest RC off-road trend. They seem the be the ideal platform for a land based all terrain rover system. Traction and maneuverability is very impressive.

Last week I got a HBX 1/8 scale crawler kit, and started modifying it for my needs. So far the system is FPV capable (out to about 2km), but autonomous GPS navigation is planned for a later stage.


- HBX 1/8 Crawler

- 1W 1.2ghz video link

- ServoCity Pan-Tilt system

- GoPro Hero HD camera

- 500mW 433mhz two-way radio modem

- Teensy 2.0 onboard computer / serial to servo converter


And best of all, I don't have to go out in the cold to operate it!

Views: 7115

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 23, 2011 at 1:26pm
This is awesome! If you end up using APM for the autonomous route, we'd love to work with you on productizing it.

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on January 23, 2011 at 1:46pm
Sure Chris, I am open for suggestions. I haven't formulated how to best handle land based navigation yet. While some parts will be easier then airplanes (it won't fall from the sky if something is wrong), there also are new interesting problems to solve. Like how to detect and navigate around obstacles, and get the rover unstuck autonomously.
Comment by Bernard Michaud on January 23, 2011 at 2:43pm

Nice job .

I am waiting for parts to begin assembling something similar.

The video tells a lot about the vibration related to the size of the crawler.

Any idea yet on how to fix any additionnal material on your 1/8 scale frame?

What about driving it remotly from a trasmitted videosignal ?

As for your navigation around obstacles, the guys who work on the Canadian arm in Space are working on a rover capable of detecting obstacle and map his surrounding(going to Mars project). Some concepts(harware and software)  where demonstrate on the Canadian Descovery HD-TV channel some months ago.

Awesome project

Comment by Garry Qualls on January 23, 2011 at 3:18pm

This looks awesome!  I am not very familiar with the RC car market, but the photos look just like the 1/8 scale Redcat RockslidesI bought to use as ground vehicles this past fall.  They are less than $300 and ready to run out of the box.  They are geared very low and the chassis is highly articulated, so they will crawl over just about anything.  For indoor work in a Vicon range, they are great because combining the front and rear steering gives them a turn diameter of about five feet (less than a meter radius), which is very tight for such a big car. 


Their low speed and soft tires also make them perfect for working with students.  I tossed an arduino and an xbee on one and had it being driven by a Processing script on my laptop in one evening.  Their large size, high ground clearance, and four wheel drive make them a really good choice for this kind of work.  The extreme flexibility of the chassis that lets it crawl over almost anything, though, means that, when it comes to rest on flat ground, the main body can still be leaning quite a bit, so flat and level ground will probably never read as flat and level on your sensors.  If you need your onboard vehicle attitude to reliably tell you the slope of the ground, you'll need a stiffer vehicle. 


I wish mine were as advanced as yours! Keep us posted on your progress!


Comment by Randy on January 23, 2011 at 5:19pm
That is a really cool video.  Who needs a real off road vehicle when you've got something like this?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 23, 2011 at 5:24pm

That 1/8 Redcat Rockslide is available at Amazon for just $235.

Amazon link
Comment by mahmood on January 23, 2011 at 7:33pm
are you using the same long range modem tx/rx you designed with this crawler?

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on January 24, 2011 at 1:19am


Camera vibrations is my main problem at the moment. I need to find/make a proper ball-bearing pan-tilt rig instead of the usual direct servo to servo mount. To mount equipment I cut and bend Plexiglas sheets and screw them to the crawler frame. The frame is made of a nice bendable plastic that won't crack if you pre-drill holes for the screws.



The Redcat pictures looks identical to my HBX kit. I think we can assume they are the same. Built quality and performance is very good for the price. The only thing I have to say is that the motors are brushed and there is a noisy cooling fan on the ESC. Also the ESC is meant for 6cell NiMH batteries, but it will run fine with 2S and 3S lipos. You just have to be careful to not drain the batteries since there is no voltage cutoff. I will most likely upgrade to a brushless system later on.



Yes. I use a slightly modified version of the 433mhz radio system I made earlier. But I am looking into using a WiFi network for both control and video transmission. I have a couple of neat 3x4cm sized realtime mpeg-4 encoder boards that would be perfect for this.

Comment by Mohammed Abdulaziz AlMerri on January 24, 2011 at 4:35am
I am working on UGV
could you please upload the video on
because I could not see the video

Comment by healthyfatboy on January 24, 2011 at 11:13am
How did you get that range of 2 km with wireless video on the ground? What kind of area were you driving in? Over in the FPV forums, people seem to be able to get a max of around 1 km before the video is useless and I have only personally gone about 200-250 m before it went out on me. We were using a Traxxas Summit.


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