Biological Systems Engineering


First Advisor

Santosh K. Pitla

Second Advisor

John Boye

Third Advisor

Justin Bradley

Date of this Version



Troyer, T.A., (2017). Event and Time-Triggered Control Module Layers for Individual Robot Control Architectures of Unmanned Agricultural Ground Vehicles.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Agricultural and Biological Systems Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor Santosh K. Pitla. Lincoln, Nebraska, October, 2017

Copyright 2017 Tyler A. Troyer


Automation in the agriculture sector has increased to an extent where the accompanying methods for unmanned field management are becoming more economically viable. This manifests in the industry’s recent presentation of conceptual cab-less machines that perform all field operations under the high-level task control of a single remote operator. A dramatic change in the overall workflow for field tasks that historically assumed the presence of a human in the immediate vicinity of the work is predicted. This shift in the entire approach to farm machinery work provides producers increased control and productivity over high-level tasks and less distraction from operating individual machine actuators and implements. The final implication is decreased mechanical complexity of the cab-less field machines from their manned counter types.

An Unmanned Agricultural Ground Vehicle (UAGV) electric platform received a portable control module layer (CML) which was modular and able to accept higher-level mission commands while returning system states to high-level tasks. The simplicity of this system was shown by its entire implementation running on microcontrollers networked on a Time-Triggered Controller Area Network (TTCAN) bus. A basic form of user input and output was added to the system to demonstrate a simple instance of sub-system integration. In this work, all major levels of design and implementation are examined in detail, revealing the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of each subsystem. System design philosophy is highlighted from the beginning. A state-space feedback steering controller was implemented on the machine utilizing a basic steering model found in literature.

Finally, system performance is evaluated from the perspectives of a number of disciplines including: embedded systems software design, control systems, and robot control architecture. Recommendations for formalized UAGV system modeling, estimation, and control are discussed for the continuation of research in simplified low-cost machines for in-field task automation. Additional recommendations for future time-triggered CML experiments in bus robustness and redundancy are discussed. The work presented is foundational in the shift from event-triggered communications towards time-triggered CMLs for unmanned agricultural machinery and is a front-to-back demonstration of time-triggered design.

Advisor: Santosh K. Pitla