Energy & Sustainability Robotics Technology
 Tank / robotics platform – from Walmart

M1A2.1

Geminicricket sent us in this $80 RF tank found at Walmart that seems like it would make an excellent supply of parts to procure from – “I was in Walmart today and saw a great deal that’ll be loads of fun and might be exceptionally useful to someone with more skill in electronics than I. A 1/9th scale Abrahms M1A2 tank for $80. It was originally $200. The battery in it (a 12V 7Ah) is worth around $40 so it would be worth buying just to retrieve the lead/acid combo…It is amazingly huge: 3′ long with a turret that measures 12” by 16″…I haven’t taken it apart yet but it looks like it will easily fit a laptop and GPS. I’d bet with some skill it would be a fantastic, cheap robotics platform. Link.

4 thoughts on “$80 Tank / robotics platform – from Walmart

  1. I have a similar tank, except 1/12 scale that I am currently modding to navigate using GPS and a Freescale microcontroller. These are truly cavernous inside… there is nothing inside the body except the controller.

    The controller board in mine has relays to control the drive motors and turret motor, plus some ICs to handle the RF communications. The stock controls are pretty poor; they are non-responsive and have nearly a half-second lag between letting go of the drive control to stopping the tank. What that means is that driving and turning are very inaccurate; I can get no better than about 5cm accuracy driving forward or backward, and 10-15 degrees of rotation. It’s pretty frustrating if you’re actually trying to make a target with the stock controls. I am retrofitting mine with National LMD18200 H-bridges so I can control the speed with the micro.

    Another concern with the tank I have, and probably this one too, is that the drive system is very cheap and slow. The tank moves around 0.1 m/s, so it is almost within the error margin for velocity measurement by GPS. Additionally, the drive axles are encased, so the best I have come up with for speed measurement for dead-reckoning is to attach magnets inside the drive housing and measure with a hall effect sensor. (This lets me attach to any one of the four step-down gears, which lets me get speed measurement pulses on the order of kilohertz.)

    All in all, it’s a neat toy, but be warned… check its speed and don’t plan on using the stock controls.

  2. Ha! Talk about swords to plowshares. The semiotics of hacking a (probably) Chinese-made replica of America’s most lethal cavalry weapon (in desert camo, you’ll note) sold at Wal-Mart as a children’s toy…

    The mind boggles coming to grips with the layers of irony.

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