The DARPA 2005 Challenge is a once in a lifetime chance for robotic engineers, companies and engineers to show their stuff. What is learned during such contests probably saves the Department of Defense hundreds of millions in Research and Development costs. To the taxpayers this is exceptional news indeed.
Recently I had a conversation with one of the teams, which is poised to win this years contest, although many would agree upon reviewing all these teams that they are all winners, as they bring to the table the future of robotics a frontier, which will be conquered indeed. This team told me that since they were using Off-The-Shelf Technology for their platform vehicle, meaning it was your basic SUV, that they were not sure if it had enough of a gas tank to make the whole trip. In fact since the speeds would be around 20-25 miles per hour over rugged terrain and since the vehicle would be running the modified electrical system full blast, with two alternators, RV style air-conditioning system and computer processors that it would be a gas hog? And you thought you paid a lot for gasoline? In any case this unmanned ground vehicles or UGV would be very inefficient indeed.
With the high cost of fuel riding a snowmobile idea costs lots of money. For those who live in the sticks, we know that sometimes it is about the only way to get around during the tough winters up in high country. Unfortunately high fuel prices and lack of supply is taking its toll on a back countryman’s budget indeed. We must conserve fuel and one way to do this is to use more efficient lighting bypassing the electrical system.
Fuel prices have seen sharp increases in the last few years in our nation. The bumps on the trails we use can power up the headlights using electromagnetic induction technology to charge a capacitor instead of the headlights working off a battery. Currently there are some nifty micro-flashlights being used which you can buy which use a similar technique and are available thanks to the Everlite Flashlight technology research lab. These smaller flashlights work by shaking them for about thirty seconds and shine for about 6 minutes and they shine quite bright since they use a very bright LED light.