Electrical & Computer Engineering, Department of


First Advisor

A. John Boye

Second Advisor

Santosh Pitla

Date of this Version


Document Type



Humphrey, R. (2019). Embedded System Design of Robot Control Architectures for Unmanned Agricultural Ground Vehicles. (Master's Thesis). University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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: Electrical Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professors A. John Boye and Santosh K. Pitla. Lincoln, Nebraska, August, 2019

Copyright 2019 Ryan P. Humphrey


Engineering technology has matured to the extent where accompanying methods for unmanned field management is now becoming a technologically achievable and economically viable solution to agricultural tasks that have been traditionally performed by humans or human operated machines. Additionally, the rapidly increasing world population and the daunting burden it places on farmers in regards to the food production and crop yield demands, only makes such advancements in the agriculture industry all the more imperative. Consequently, the sector is beginning to observe a noticeable shift, where there exist a number of scalable infrastructural changes that are in the process of slowly being implemented onto the modular machinery design of agricultural equipment. This work is being pursued in effort to provide firmware descriptions and hardware architectures that integrate cutting edge technology onto the embedded control architectures of agricultural machinery designs to assist in achieving the end goal of complete and reliable unmanned agricultural automation.

In this thesis, various types of autonomous control algorithms integrated with obstacle avoidance or guidance schemes, were implemented onto controller area network (CAN) based distributive real-time systems (DRTSs) in form of the two unmanned agricultural ground vehicles (UAGVs). Both vehicles are tailored to different applications in the agriculture domain as they both leverage state-of-the-art sensors and modules to attain the end objective of complete autonomy to allow for the automation of various types of agricultural related tasks. The further development of the embedded system design of these machines called for the developed firmware and hardware to be implemented onto both an event triggered and time triggered CAN bus control architecture as each robot employed its own separate embedded control scheme.

For the first UAGV, a multiple GPS waypoint navigation scheme is derived, developed, and evaluated to yield a fully controllable GPS-driven vehicle. Additionally, obstacle detection and avoidance capabilities were also implemented onto the vehicle to serve as a safety layer for the robot control architecture, giving the ground vehicle the ability to reliability detect and navigate around any obstacles that may happen to be in the vicinity of the assigned path. The second UAGV was a smaller robot designed for field navigation applications. For this robot, a fully autonomous sensor based algorithm was proposed and implemented onto the machine. It is demonstrated that the utilization and implementation of laser, LIDAR, and IMU sensors onto a mobile robot platform allowed for the realization of a fully autonomous non-GPS sensor based algorithm to be employed for field navigation. The developed algorithm can serve as a viable solution for the application of microclimate sensing in a field.

Advisors: A. John Boye and Santosh Pitla