Carlson Software employees Scott Langbein and Brian Hammer measure Baskin-Robbins' 8,865-lb bid for the world's largest ice cream sculpture.

Measuring the world's largest ice cream sculpture; first modernized GPS satellite launched; and surveying technology guides robot vehicles across the desert.

Baskin-Robbins, the ice cream shop famous for offering 31 flavors, celebrated its 60th anniversary this year. To commemorate this milestone, Baskin-Robbins attempted to assemble the largest ice cream sculpture and called on Carlson Software (Maysville, Ky.) to measure the sculpture for its bid to the Guinness World Records.

Baskin-Robbins assembled a team of six people in Massachusetts who spent 15 hours sculpting 1,289.3 gallons of vanilla ice cream into the shape of an ice cream scoop in a 5 x 8 ft specially-made ice cream bowl. The previous record in the category of largest ice cream sculpture, which was set in November 1992 by Jacques Tokar, used 453.2 gallons of chocolate and vanilla ice cream and weighed 2,039.4 lbs.

After the Baskin-Robbins scoop was molded, it was delivered in a refrigerated truck to Canton, Mass. on September 13 where employees of Carlson Software's Watertown, Mass. office measured an accurate volume of the sculpture. Todd Carlson, product manager, said, "It wasn't in our normal business practice, but [I said] we could do the job."

Scott Langbein, product specialist, and Brian Hammer, technical support specialist, acted as surveyors for the day to measure the sculpture. The task proved more difficult than first anticipated because the ice cream was melting. "Between the bright sun and all the day's hoopla, I knew [we] were going to be dealing with some time restrictions," Langbein said.

Hammer acted as rodman while Langbein operated a Sokkia 530R total station to take shots-quickly-along the thawing mound of ice cream. They used a Carlson Explorer II data collector powered by Carlson SurvCE to record the data. Langbein then downloaded the points into Carlson Survey 2006 and calculated the volumes from a laptop in his car. They completed the survey in 20 minutes. "We did the survey, calculated the volumes and had time to eat some good Baskin-Robbins ice cream all in a morning's work," Hammer said.

Later, back in the office, Todd Carlson doubled-checked the volumes using Carlson Takeoff, a site estimating software package. The Baskin-Robbins submission to Guinness World Records weighed 8,865 lbs. At press time, the bid for a world record was still pending.

First Modernized GPS Satellite Launched

The first modernized GPS satellite was successfully launched on Sept. 25, 2005, from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The GPS IIR-M1 satellite is capable of broadcasting two new military signals and the new civil signal L2C. For more information on the GPS modernization program, see "GPS Modernization," The GPS Observer, POB, March 2005.

Twenty-three autonomous robotic vehicles competed in DARPA's Second Grand Challenge across the Mohave Desert. Photo courtesy of DARPA.

Surveying Technology Guides Robot Vehicles Across the Desert

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored its second Grand Challenge in 2005-a competition in which autonomous robotic ground vehicles race across the desert for a $2 million prize. These robotic vehicles guide themselves through the application of surveying and positioning technologies, including lasers, LiDAR and GPS. DARPA, which is the central research and development organization for the U.S. Department of Defense, hosted the second Grand Challenge event in the Mohave Desert to stimulate the development of robotic technology for future American military applications.

In the 2004 Grand Challenge, none of the 15 competing teams made it past the eight-mile mark on the 250-mile course, and the $1 million prize went unclaimed. DARPA doubled the prize money for the 2005 competition and whittled down the 195 applicants to 23 finalists. The teams were given the route waypoints just two hours prior to the start of the race, which began at 6:40 a.m. Saturday morning, October 8, and ended the next day. Each robot had to navigate a 131.6-mile off-road course accurately, while detecting and avoiding obstacles such as bumpy desert roads, dry lakebeds, freeway underpasses and narrow mountain passes.

This year, five of the competing 23 auto-nomous ground vehicles successfully completed the tough course through the Mojave Desert. The vehicle that completed the course in the shortest amount of time was "Stanley," entered by Stanford University's racing team. The team won the $2 million prize because it finished the entire course in the shortest elapsed time under 10 hours (6:53:58). For GPS positioning, Stanford's racing team used the NovAtel (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) ProPak-LBplus GPS receiver with integrated access to OmniSTAR (Houston, Texas) L-band signals, which provide correction data to deliver submeter to decimeter level accuracy.

Carnegie Mellon University's H1ghlander, a modified 1991 Hummer, finished third in the challenge. Photo courtesy of DARPA.

Two vehicles entered by Carnegie Mellon University, Red Team's "Sandstorm" (7:04:50) and Red Team Too's "H1ghlander" (7:14:00) finished close behind Stanford. The Gray Team's "KAT-5" finished at 7:30:16. Oshkosh Truck's 16-ton robot "TerraMax" also finished the course, but its official elapsed time exceeded the 10-hour limit. Many corporate sponsors made their products available to entrants in the competition. Riegl USA (Orlando, Fla.) LiDAR scanners were used by seven DARPA teams: the Gray Team, Intelligent Vehicle Safety Technologies (both "Desert Tortoise" and "Desert Hare"), Red Team, Red Team Too, Team Cal Tech and The Mitre Meteorites. The rugged Riegl scanners provided long range and high speed scan rates as well as 3D mobile mapping capabilities. Also, six teams (Axion Racing, C&CT CajunBot, Team Caltech, CIMAR, Mojavaton and SciAutonics) used NavCom Technology's (Torrance, Calif.) SF-2050 GPS receiver with the StarFire Network providing for decimeter positioning accuracy throughout the course.

The first four finishers entered the history books as being the first ground vehicle robots to travel a great distance at relatively high speed within a specified time frame. Stanley's average speed over the 131.6-mile desert course was 19.1 mph. Sandstorm averaged 18.6 mph, H1ghlander 18.2 mph, and KAT-5 17.5 mph.

DARPA is pleased with the results of the competitions as they prove conclusively that autonomous ground vehicles can travel long distances over difficult terrain at militarily relevant rates of speed. For more information, webcasts and photos of the DARPA Grand Challenge, visit www.grandchallenge.org.

Managing Editor Kimberly Jensen compiles "Newsline." If you have a timely, newsworthy item, contact her at 248/244-6465 or E-mail jensenk@bnpmedia.com. Also visit www.pobonline.com for daily news updates.