RC Snow Plow Robot: Best Practices and Examples

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The interest in snow plow robots has exploded over the last 5 years, largely thanks to the hobbyists in robotics area. In this inspirational post, I present the most important parts of a snow plow robot to make your work easier and lets you focus on what is more important: building the snow plow robot.

There’s a lot of variety out there in the snow plow robot designs. Some projects keep a very professional approach (like the open-source snow plow robot) while others have a more eccentric design (like this RC rotary snow plow). But what are the best ways to design a snow plow robot? What are the components and parts that make a snow plow more functional for users? Read on to find out.

1. Build A Strong and Modular Platform

The platform’s design is crucial for the success of any snow plow robot. You need to make sure that the mobile robot is able to clean your house’s sidewalk either through a resistant chassis and a traction system that not lose grip and spin around fruitlessly.

A durable structure

Most makers don’t have time, inclination and a dedicated space to weld a metallic chassis. Should be considered everything else that provides rigidity and simple enough to build it with simple tools.

A range of aluminum channels and profile connectors is the best option for building complex rigid structure suitable for a snow plow robot.
The aluminum rails, cubes and brackets, t-nuts and screws, enclosure
and accessories serve to provide a long-lasting platform for outdoor tasks.

In this project, the designer uses aluminum rails to build a chassis suitable for a lawn mower and a snow plow robot.

Example of aluminum modular components:

Good traction on snow and ice

Your robot should have enough traction on snow and ice to remove the snow from your property. Large wheels are the most easiest and obvious things to use for a snow plow robot. But think about other options. Think about tank tracks.

The large surface area of a track distributes the weight of the robot better than a tire enabling a continuously tracked snow plow platform to traverse the snow without getting stuck in soft snow. In addition, the tank tracks allow superior traction and a better ability to push the snow than wheels.

Fortunately, a snow plow robot doesn’t require high speed to clear the snow. The only disadvantage that remains true for tank tracks is the mechanical complexity which is much higher compared to the wheels.

This snow plow robot features two tank tracks with better mobility than pneumatic tires over snow and ice.

Examples of molded spliceless tracks and wheel:

Build it with a considerable amount of power

The key point of a snow plow robot is to provide a considerable amount of power. High-torque DC geared motors seem to be the most popular option. To give you an idea, the wheelchair or e-bike geared motors cannot provide high speeds, but these DC motors are capable to generate the high-torque needed to push snow.

For this snow plow robot the designer uses 12V 40RPM DC motors. In a mention by designer, the 24V e-bike geared motors are ideal due to the high torque provided at 24V.

Examples of 24V e-bike geared motors:

2. Make The Control Simple

The whole point of a control system is to make the communication between user and robot. Make sure when you’re planning and building your control system that you keep the low price and simplicity at the forefront of every decision you make.

Use the best motor driver

A motor driver with both manual and automatic controls seems to be the most popular of this kind. Some users may only want to remotely control the robot. Others might want to set up the robot to control it manually or automatically. A motor driver should be capable of starting and stopping the motors, select forward and reverse rotation, select the speed and limit the torque using manual or automatic commands.
In either case, make sure the motor driver is capable of feeding the high-torque DC motors for a long time without heating and burning.

This 6WD snow plow robot is remote controlled with a Sabertooth Dual 60A motor driver suitable for general purpose robots up to 450Kg ( 1000lbs).

Examples of best motor drivers for heavy-duty robots:

Make the control easy

Everything from RC controllers to smartphones to tablets to PC apps are good ways to control the robots. The simplest way to control the robot is to use the equipment able to generate the basic commands needed to control all the functions of a snow plow robot. The easy and simple way is through the help of an RC controller.

The capabilities of an RC controller and receiver are measured in channels. You can control all the features of a snow plow robot with a 6 channel RC controller and a receiver that gives you the option to control all the features of the robot.

This robot uses a Spektrum R9020 9-Channel DSMX X-Plus receiver with fail safe and a remote control Spektrum DSMX DX6i transmitter

Three examples of 9CH transmitters & receivers:

3. Make It Green

Without the power to feed the DC motors and electronics, your robot is just a simple piece of furniture. Using batteries instead small gas engines for hobby makes more sense and your robot more eco-friendly.

This robot uses four 12V 35Ah batteries to feed two powerful 135 RPM wheelchair motors for 1-2 hours of operation.

Four examples of 12V Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries:

4. Be Sure You See Everything

Make your work easier and install headlights and a camera on top of your robot. Of course, you can remove the snow without these two accessories if you stay in the proximity area of your robot. Otherwise, use headlights to see at night and the camera for the live stream on your PC.

Clean the snow in the night

In the winter, the days are short and cold. Make sure to install the best headlights on top of the robot to be able to remove the snow at any time.

The headlights installed on top of the robot makes the users able to clean the snow in the night.

Mount a camera to see what happening outside

As an operator with full control over the robot functionalities, you have to locate and see what robot does on the sidewalk. In addition to headlights, you need to set up a video camera for sending real-time images. In this way, you can see what’s happening outside.

The robot has cameras mounted on top and provide a 360 – degree view of the operator.

5. Build The Snow Cleaner System

Keeping your driveway and walkways clear and safe are the reasons to use a snow plow robot. Making the right snow cleaner system can make a big difference when the robot pushes the snow along the ground.

The most designers approach is to attach to the robot a fixed snow plow blade. This makes it easy for you to build the robot. But, the more degrees of freedom a snow plow blade has, the more possibilities will be to clean the snow.

Make the snow plow blade to move

The best approach to make the snow plow blade move up and down, left and right is to use linear actuators.

This linear actuator moves up and down the snow plow blade.

The snow plow blade is raised and lowered using a linear actuator. The angle of plowing is adjustable from the RC controller.

Examples of linear actuators:

Choose a metallic snow pusher

There is no perfect size for a snow plow blade. The size depends on your walkways and the power of the robot. The ideal is to use a metallic snow plow for long life use.

This robot uses a 52″ wide snow plow blade mounted to the front to push the snow

An example of a metallic snow plow blade:

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