Denning Branch International Home Page is

Click on the "X" at the top right hand corner to close this window.

Fander - A Unique Research & Educational Mobile Robot

Introduction to Fander

Fander is a unique educational mobile robot now into its third generation. Its main objective is to make demonstrations of many of the most advanced mobile robotics technologies available in easy and ready-to-use form for the educator or student. The mobile robotics industry has come a long way since its commercial debut with the Tasman Turtle in 1979: this robot shows the state of the art and prepares the student for what today's mobile robotics companies want from employees.

Fander Serves Three Purposes:

  1. As a teaching aid, (education mode), it will assist secondary and tertiary institutions in teaching mobile robotics navigation and guidance technologies and concepts.
  2. As a working robot, (research mode), it will serve as a general purpose research vehicle and expandable chassis for the serious scientist.
  3. As a sample, it will help corporations make purchasing or development decisions about mobile robotics technologies and to understand the capabilities, limitations, and claims of robotics. In other words help companies to race through the capital expenditure decision making "learning curve".

Educational Mode and Research Mode

Fander is a unique mobile robot product an innovation. In the education mode it is the only device of its type with built-in working demonstrations of not just modern mobile robot technologies like sensing and object avoidance, but advanced navigation and guidance technologies like mapping and path planning. This means that this robot is fully functional and performs immediately requiring no additional software to be written by the user. It allows the robot to be used as a training device and as a supplement to course work in the educational field. In its research mode however, Fander can still be used as an independent research vehicle by taking advantage of all of the sensors and hardware features, but also by utilizing the driver modules supplied with the robot's software and hardware in unique ways.

The robot comes with a comprehensive user manual. In order to facilitate research activities, an additional technical information manual including software listings is available. All protection and copyrights are reserved. Useful teaching information, bibliography and technical discussions are included as part of the manuals.

Software Environment

Fander software consists of two parts, the on-board software that exists in EPROM and operates via the robot's on-board PC, and the PC software that is supplied on disk and must be loaded at the time of use if an 0ff-board computer is used. There is an asynchronous two-way serial link between the robot and the off-board PC. The serial interface structure is very robust and full details are supplied in the technical manual. At any time during operation an RS232 cable can be connected to or disconnected from a laptop or desk top computer com poet. Control of the robot can then be via the computer keyboard or the hand held controller.

The software is written in C++ and the full source code is supplied with the technical manual as are the electronic specifications, addressing and memory maps. Inside Fander is a mini PC mother board. Again all specifications are supplied. The original mother board BIOS is removed and replaced with the Denning Branch International custom EPROM.

In order to write your own programs it is possible to do any one of the following:

User programs can be written in any language and are not restricted to C++.

Demonstration Programs

For many applications and uses of Fander, particularly educational, there is no need to write additional software because the robot carries numerous self-contained demonstrations.

In this educational mode the user travels through a menu of 30 demonstrations via the handheld controller which consists of a 12 button keypad and a 2 line 20 character LCD screen. In educational mode, Fander can be used in two different "sub-modes". The robot is primarily independent of any external computer and when not connected to one is regarded as being in the "stand alone mode". Certain demonstrations that provide graphics, especially in the navigation and path planning demonstrations requiring sonar maps, are more suited to be viewed on a remote computer screen. In this case an RS232 link is made to your PC and Fander is regarded as being in "remote PC mode". This link can be severed at any time without interrupting the current demonstration.

There are 18 demonstration categories with multiple interactive variations arranged in a hierarchical order based on the level of sophistication of the technology. Demonstrations range from simple and basic technologies such as line following through to sonar based mapping technologies. Each demonstration can be run on the robot in the real world. The user manual text supplementing the demonstrations points out the capabilities, limitations, problem areas and alternatives to each technology type.

The demonstrations include:

Sensor Systems

Fander has a 360 degree rotating ultrasonic transducer mounted on a stepper motor and a slip ring with home position sensor, three infrared proximity detectors, two motor shaft encoders, an eight bit optical line sensor and two audio sensors. Several sensors are used in multiple ways, for example a bump is detected from one of three methods: a signal from the infrared proximity sensors, a short range reading from the sonar sensors, or a stall in the motor shaft encoders.

The object is to give experimenters a complete research environment to work in, and the student a rich set of examples to study basic robotic concepts. Fander is a hundred robots in one.

Hardware Systems

The robot's interface electronics is on a single, large interface card located in one of the motherboard expansion slots. The exception is the serial interface which is located on its own card situated in another slot on the motherboard. The serial card offers a dual, bi-directional, high baud rate RS232 interface. The serial link can be expanded to a wireless link. The motherboard is an IBM compatible microcomputer. By reinstalling the BIOS chip which is packaged with the robot, this board can be reconstituted as a fully compatible PC, offering further flexibility for the researcher. It is possible to add custom expansion cards to the Fander on-board computer.

Power is from two 6 volt rechargeable gel cell batteries which can last for up to three hours depending on the type of activity.

Cost and Ordering

Tax exempt price for Fander is $15,400 USD subject to change. Freight and insurance are extra and will be quoted at the time of ordering.


Dimensions: 450mmx400mmx320mm


Weight (metric): Including batteries, approximately 7.5Kg.

The package contents include the robot, rechargeable batteries, user manual, serial cable, BIOS chip, software disk and connector. You supply a 6 volt battery charger to suit your country's mains power supply. The technical manual is available under signed confidentiality for an additional $1900.00 USD. Fander 3 includes dc power supply, SVGA video card, video and keyboard ports and Disc Drive.

A limited parts and labor warranty of 12 months for the electronics and robot hardware is offered if warranty registration card is returned. There is no warranty on the batteries, motors or power electronics other than the manufacturer's original warranty. The robot must be returned to, and picked up from, the place of purchase at the owner's expense to satisfy the warranty terms.

Copyright 1997 - 2005 Denning Branch International. All rights reserved.

Click on the "X" at the top right hand corner to close this window.

Counter started February 18, 2005. FanderCounter