Automated Drilling Application for Autonomous Airfield Runway Surveying Vehicles: System Design and Validation

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Mechanical Engineering


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Renewable and Clean Energy


Advisor: Timothy Reissman


An automated drilling system was designed to provide an improved capability to a robotic vehicle prototype used to perform expedient airfields evaluations. The Robotic Assault Zone Terminal Evaluation Kit (RAZTEK) is an autonomous capable Lightweight Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle (LTATV) equipped with an automated dynamic cone penetrometer (DCP) termed "Mosquito." The combination of a recreational terrain vehicle equipped with an automated DCP system provided the Air Force with its first remote airfield assessment capability. This capability allowed remote measuring of unknown landing zone soil structures around the world without putting an operator in high risk environments to perform the task. An automated drilling system (ADS) was strategically designed in this research to allow the RAZTEK vehicle to perform expedient airfield pavement evaluations on hard paved or concrete surfaces. The assemblies of the "Mosquito Nest," which include the structures of the vehicle associated with airfield evaluations, were all assessed for their structural integrity and design. A finite element analysis using Solidworks « 2017 provided stress analysis and displacement calculations proving that each structure designed using a safety factor of 3 or more was structurally safe under the conditions provided by the system dynamics. The electrical design for integrating the ADS into the existing structural geometry, was successful in allowing automation between the Mosquito and ADS points of penetration to be concentric. The objective of the ADS was to provide a self-operating drilling application which could sense when it breaks through the hard upper surface, provide drill depth or surface thickness measurement, and allow the mosquito to measure the substrate below. A test procedure was created to characterize the ADS by drilling through 30, 8 inch depth Portland concrete cement (PCC) blocks without tool change or system failure. The resulting test data showed an average time to drill through each block was 272.43 ▒ 13.05 seconds. The average depth the drive motor stopped at was 8.9 ▒ 0.25 inches. The ADS provided an operating drill force of 159.7 lbf to the drill bit while traveling at an average drill depth rate of 0.033 inches per second. The ADS system had an 11.28 % ▒ 3.08 % error.


Robotics, Remote Sensing, Mechanical Engineering, RAZTEK, robotic assault zone terminal evaluation kit, airfield pavement evaluation, expedient airfield evaluation, remote sensing, assault zone survey, DCP, automated drilling system, ADS, runway surface drilling, airfield surface characterization

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