HoverSim- a Hovercraft Simulator using Mecanum Wheels

I’ve always been intrigued by anything that can maneuver around ‘without friction’ – Ice Skaters, coasting on a bicycle, hovercraft and even the hero spaceship in the classic Asteroids video game.

Over the years, I’ve toyed with the idea of building a model hovercraft for kicks – but the time and motivation just haven’t been there.

And then I discovered Mecanum Wheels.

Fast forward and we reach the Seattle Robotics Society Exhibition on 2021 July 10, where I gave the following presentation on HoverSim.  This introduction video gives an overview of HoverSim functionality – it shows how key features build on each other – and it shows some tricks you can do with mecanum wheels, an IMU (inertial measurement unit) and some very simple control loops…


Play Video about HoverSim Introduction to SRS RoboThon on 10 July 2021


Next Steps

As mentioned in the video, HoverSim is just a testbed to experiment with. It’s been fun play with the mechanics of motion and momentum, and controlling the platform with simple algorithms.

Hence, possible next steps include

    • Optical Flow and a position loop
    • Computer Vision, to enable object and environment sensing
    • Adding suspension, to help the wheels work better on uneven surfaces
    • Improved mechanics for robustness and appearance – maybe even modelling a 50’s era flying saucer
    • Adding an algorithm to automatically center the robot on a spinning turntable.
    • Porting HoverSimSim algorithms to a physical platform and being the first physical robot to conquer the DPRG Challenge Line Following course. Note that HoverSimSim deserves it’s own post, but has a sneak peak below. 


Sneak Peek at HoverSimSim

HoverSimSim is a Java/Processing simulator I wrote of HoverSim. Hence – it’s a software simulator of a hardware simulator.  As it turns out, I wrote HoverSimSim in the middle of 2020 – which was also during the initial HoverSim platform build & code. So let’s blame the HoverSimSim name on COVID-19 humor. Anyhow, HoverSimSim took second place in a virtual robot contest that DPRG held in December of 2020.

Until I have a chance to do more of a write-up on HoverSimSim – check out the following recording of a sample run on the DPRG Challenge Line Following Course. The challenge is for a robot (or in this case, a virtual robot algorithm), to use a designers choice of optical sensors to detect what appears to a human as an obvious line, and follow it around as quickly as possible…


Learn More

Read up on Mecanum Wheels – they’re pretty cool…

Check out Ron Grant’s Open Source Line Following Simulator called LFS.  Ron wrote this simulation environment in Java/Processing to facilitate DPRG’s virtual contest in December of 2020. The HoverSimSim robot algorithm shown above is just one of several very different virtual robots running in LFS.

Follow Dallas Personal Robotics Group by joining their free email distribution list or Build More Robots Meetup postings, and join in on a regular Tuesday Night (Dallas time) meeting or a monthly meeting every second Saturday. 


Testbed Zone