Picture of RC truck robot conversion
This Instructable covers the conversion of a cheap off-the-shelf RC truck into a powerful robot vision platform capable of ball following, etc.

I always like seeing the projects around the world using expensive robots, running complex vision processing software and dreamt of the day I would have my own to play with.

Win the lottery or build one on the cheap?

Cheap wins every time.

I say cheap, but what I mean is cheap-ish. It depends on how complicated you want it to be and how much you have lying around. Maybe it should be "cheap compared to a Corrobot or Whitebox robot" (although they have much more functionality)


Parts required

Toyabi Skullcrusher RC monster truck
SSC-32 for webcam tilt
Logitech Pro 9000 webcam
Sabertooth 2x10a speed controller
Dell C610 laptop system board + proc + memory + wireless
12v - 19v converter to run laptop from 12v SLA battery
12v battery (I used a 12v SLA 7ah but its a bit too heavy, maybe a LIPO?)
RS232 - TTL converter (homemade or Ebay) for Sabertooth
USB - RS232 converter for SSC-32
Remote control unit and keyfob (homemade or Ebay) - this is a failsafe so I can cut power to the Sabertooth
USB hub
12V fan
Old satellite set-top box - emptied this and used it as a box to house it all in.


Windows Xp

Where did u find all these parts
OracsRevenge (author)  bradley1marler1 year ago
Amazon and Ebay
mike0101011 year ago
im using pwm to drive the sabertooth w/ 9.6v source..doesn't seem to generate enough power to turn the vehicle properly. Wondering if i should be using a larger battery..
Do you know how much voltage and amperage the motors require?
OracsRevenge (author)  mike0101011 year ago
This was a few years ago. I used a 12V 7aH lead acid battery, but replaced it eventually with an 11.1v 4aH LIPO which worked well.

I never measured the current draw but at a guess you would need to supply a peak current of around 5 amps.
Hi i'm looking at starting in robotics and was wondering if anyone knew where I can get a cheap RC robot kit or cheap parts to build one. I have basic soldering skills but no programming skills.
OracsRevenge (author)  TheUntrained2 years ago
Hi, you may be better starting with something like Lego Mindstorms or Vex, there are communities out there for support and ideas,. Thanks
brenryan3 years ago
Hi Oracs,

Nice build.

I'm trying to do something similar, using a single board linux computer to make a remote control rover style robot.

Like this:


I'm also using a Toyabi Skullcrusher and I will be going with a camera setup similar to yours rather than the above.

I was wondering if you could please post or PM a few more detailed pics + instructions of the camera mount and servo assembly.

It would be a great help for me if you could show how you did it to get some ideas going. I may have to try and modify it to have pan and tilt, but this would be a great starting point for me if it's not too much trouble.

Many thanks mate, keep up the good work...
OracsRevenge (author)  brenryan3 years ago

Sorry, I have had a check and I don't have a better photo available.

The tilt was achieved by drilling and screwing in a small ball joint to the camera and using a wire link to a servo to tilt up and down.

This didn't work particularly well and if I was to do it again, I would by a simple pan and tilt set-up similar to this


So you were able to control it complete from the dell pc using Roborealm?

For someone with no experience using a Sabertooth speed controller, would you say that would be easier than using an Arduino UNO and motor controller?

Thanks! Awesome bot
OracsRevenge (author)  tommytwoeyes3 years ago

Roborealm has an inbuilt control module for interfacing with the Sabertooth so there is nothing to learn for it, you just need to tweak some of the variables in the module to get the right responses.

The entire robot is controlled from RR, even tilting the camera up and down (via the Lynxmotion servo controller)

Roborealm really needs to be run on an onboard PC, if you are using an Ardunino, you could possibly use it as a control/sensor slave for the robot back to a base PC running RR.

Thanks man.

Would any typical laptop PC board work? What are the minimum system requirements for the board in a bot like yours?

OracsRevenge (author)  tommytwoeyes3 years ago
The better the board, the more frames per second Roborealm can process.

This leads to faster and more accurate control of the robot.

If I was making the robot again, I would use a cheap Netbook running windows. as they are much easier to power and you can see the results on the Netbook screen.

You can still slave using openVNC to another laptop so you can see what it's doing and take control at a distance if you need to.

You are probably best to download the trial version of Roborealm and play around for a while with a webcam.

It sounds like really awesome software. Thanks for your advice!
Dearden8054 years ago
Whats the total cost???
it is working without remote
it is computer controled
jssteinke5 years ago
When I do this, I'm going to program it in labview. :) NI vision assist is easy to use.
yuck! dont waste your time with that garbage software! i used it when i was doing frc in school and it was soooooo limiting ! go check out c# 2008 and openCV it'll blow your mind! plus you dont have to own that silly compact Rio. 700 dollar paper weight!
Haha, i respect your descision, I'm in FRC too! I am just saying that vision assistant is very easy to use, i would like to (re)learn C#, i have used C dialects in the past. I've been wanting to write our code in the C IDE, that comes with the FRC KOP, but it'd be easier for newbies to learn labview, so i have to continue the legacy, lol.
yeah its just that all the frc stuff is sooo cushy! it never gets down into the nitty gritty of device i/o, everythings all wrapped up so in a way it is fast to code for their platform but so limited. but seriously check out c# its very intuitive and super easy to learn because the ide suggests code for you.. BTW GO BUY AN ARDUINO! learning how to code on that is awsome because its sooo similar to other languages, java, c ,c++, processing, ruby, perl...
our cRIO isn't detecting battery voltage, even though it turns on. any help?

anyway, I think that the cRIO is a form of a PLC, isn't it?
Yeah the cRIO is a PLC, it is mainly used as a FPGA, but also has a ARM or something in it. One thing to try is to make sure your analog input board is connected to the right slot, and the module in that slot is right. i think its a 9134 or 9234 or something like that. The smaller connector. The cRIO cant read the voltage you give directly to it though, it can only read the voltage on the analog slot. Also make sure on the analog breakout board, the big 2 pin connector is connected to your power distribution board. If this dosent help, just ask for more help.
well, we moved the parts around, and it still wouldn't work.

anyway, where exactly is the voltage read again?
oh, also, the motor controllers are blinking red, could this be related?
and the thing without the repurposed parallel port goes on the side with ethernet, right?
The voltage isnt read from the voltage coming into the ethernet side of the cRio with the 4 pin connector thing. The voltage is read using the Analog Breakout Board wich plugs into one of the crio modules. You can look at the FRC control system manual here http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Community/FRC/Game_and_Season__Info/2010_Assets/3-2010FRCControlSystemComponent%20DatasheetsRev1_enc.pdf

lso try looking at the cRio manual http://decibel.ni.com/content/docs/DOC-2632

f you still need help just ask

so the analog board is the one with a red PCB connected an top, right?
Yes it is
Also, the motor controllers should always blink red when idle. The only stay solid colors when you send FOrward/Backward commands
Yeah, i have an arduino, and have created lots of awsome things on it, our FRC team was thinking of using it instead of the cRIO, for the fun of it.
haha! ive done that too! its actually way easy to convert the hardware to work with a arduino, just take your time and make some custom connectors on a protoshield to your arduino, also i used a computer with vspe installed to remotely drive the robot through a adhawk network
Thanks for the idea, weve been trying to find a way for wireless communication, we'll probably use the ethernet shield. Something fun we were thinking of doing for some school cred, would be to put the frc bot on our schools wireless, then just drive the robot around using the IP cam for wireless vision
dude! thats also what i did! hey if you want some software to drive the whole thing email me! i wrote it all in c# (-arduino code)
I'll pm you soon, hope to hear from you!
[corosive]4 years ago
is it really expensive?
in jimmy neutron cartoon
it is a pet of jimmy names goddard
it is like a dog
dude just do this with a arduino and a ethernet shield plus a ethernet based web cam all hooked up to a wifi router! Peice of cake!! plus ive got some computer vision software i wrote just for this type of hardware platform. i used this system for 3 robots i built for my highschool. send me a email if you want code ! k.brinkerhoff.ames@gmail.com
OracsRevenge (author)  kyle brinkerhoff5 years ago
Depends on your point of view. I love the thought of everything being self-contained, I can let this go with mapping and GPS well away from WIFI and watch it roam around the beahc, etc
XOIIO5 years ago
*ahem* It's spelt "tires"
OracsRevenge (author)  XOIIO5 years ago
... only if you are American :)
I'm Canadian :)
allenmt5 years ago
 hey how much would u charge for a already made 1
OracsRevenge (author)  allenmt5 years ago

Its not something I would consider selling, I have just stripped it down and am re-building it at the moment.
zack2475 years ago
are there any programs that would let you control the robot yourself? then you could use it as a spybot. wicked instructable!
OracsRevenge (author)  zack2475 years ago
Yep, Roborealm can be configured to switch from autonomous to a different mode where it can be controlled via an on-screen keyboard, or by keypresses.
GeekyAdam5 years ago
Really nice work!  Cheers.
1230695 years ago
i have a question do you have to solder any thing i think i missed it if there is but cool robot dude
OracsRevenge (author)  1230695 years ago
Hi, I didn't have to do any soldering, just some terminal blocks to connect all the power and comms wiring up together.
k4mik4ze5 years ago
Sorry if this has been asked before but if I was using an R/c truck withthe ackerman steering, what differences would there be ? What componentswould differ ?
OracsRevenge (author)  k4mik4ze5 years ago
Hi, if the RC truck has a normal steering servo and speedcontroller, then you could connect them to the SCC-32 and just changethe scripting in Roborealm to convert the tank style steering to cartype steering which may take some time to get your head around. I amsure others have done this with Roborealm and they could advise you.

An advantage would be that you wouldn't need the Sabertooth speedcontroller at all, dissadvantage would be to lower themaneuverability of the vehicle.
k4mik4ze5 years ago
Sweet Project !! I'm usually lazy but as I come by some dough, I'm definitely getting this done !
hunter9t95 years ago
HOW DID YOU SENT VIDEO FEEDS OF THe camera to you via wireless
OracsRevenge (author)  hunter9t95 years ago
The webcam connects via USB to the robots laptop board which also has a wireless network card on it. My other laptop was used to monitor the robot remotely also has a wireless network card. I simply used UltraVNC to remote control the robot from my laptop and see what was being picked up by the camera.
I am Silas.6 years ago
How did you ever come up with that?
mevango6 years ago
i made oone of theese along time ago, it was a different one of my own it was cool
hmm im going to try doing this and making a programto control a usb turret mounted on top
weasel9996 years ago
Sure beats playing fetch with a dog
weasel9996 years ago
Try this link they sell rc cars and chasis
susipriyan6 years ago
its a nice concept and we can add a person instead of ball.
flydogfly6 years ago
the video reminds me of my ex dog (long since dead) Frooger he used to go after the Quincy toy but wen i it got close o him he would back up
rennoc6 years ago
that was pretty awesome!!!!!!!!!!
nandalukas6 years ago
thats nice n cool
CommonRui6 years ago
Maxattack6 years ago
Where did you get the rc truck
OracsRevenge (author)  Maxattack6 years ago
As per the second page, I got mine from Seben Racing in Europe, but it was also available from Amazon in the US. You may need to search around a bit to find a supplier in your area.
shmickley6 years ago
i might try moding a remote control car/truck. id like to turn it in to a det pack on wheels and just maybe chuck a siren or a spinning red light for lol's i think people would like to see that
shmickley6 years ago
looks really cool but i have some questions like Can this be done to a helie in stead of a car? How fast does it go and can it be sped up? (i wanna drive it threw my nabors dogie door and start some havoc ect) How can you increase the range of it? (id like to be able to sit at my pc controlling it and make it chase cars up and down my streat) Is it possible to add things like sirens, lights and maybe a horn that can be turned on by a command(s) and stuff?
OracsRevenge (author)  shmickley6 years ago
Hi, a heli would require a guidance and control system (see DIY drones) You can get some reasonable speed form the truck, but for more advanced control, best to use a custom robot like a Lynxmotion 4wd, etc. There are ways of extending wifi reception or maybe you can use GPRS, etc for control from anywhere. The SSC-32 servo controller could be used to turn almost anything on and off. Start small and work up to what you want to achieve. Good luck.
MaltiK6 years ago
Did you upload the .robo file you used? Or did I miss that?
OracsRevenge (author)  MaltiK6 years ago

The filters you need are really dependent on your camera, etc, bu here is one of my robo files .

jonjr6 years ago
I have a Science fair coming up and I need to find out a cheap way to run a self driven electic robot car. The car has to go in a strait line, 5 to 10m and then stop, run off 6v 4 batteries, and cost under $100 or around that price.
OracsRevenge (author)  jonjr6 years ago
Your best bet would be to head along to the following websites and ask questions in their forums.<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.trossenrobotics.com/">http://www.trossenrobotics.com/</a><br/><br/>and<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.lynxmotion.com/">http://www.lynxmotion.com/</a><br/><br/>
tubbsey886 years ago
So could you just attach the camera and transmit it wirelessly to a nearby laptop.
the dude1236 years ago
what are u talking about it's not "cheap"
OracsRevenge (author)  the dude1236 years ago
I said cheap-ish. Compared with the £1000 for a comparable off-the shelf system its not bad. Alot of people who have played with robotics/electronics before have had a lot of the parts (or similar parts) hanging around already.
You're right. I do.
FaqMan6 years ago
This is just great i just got one question. You know what program like this would run on vista properly?
OracsRevenge (author)  FaqMan6 years ago
I can't see why not. To be sure, head over to the Roborealm website and ask the question on their forum.
Ok thanks.
PyroMonger6 years ago
you should add some IR LEDs for nightvision and some white LEDs for mini spotlights
jillg6 years ago
its like a robotic puppy with sharp corners!
jalapeno16 years ago
Awesome instructable!; gonna have to get started on one of my own!
your to smart for your own good... :)
munee86r6 years ago
nice jop dude that is rellay awesome!!!! plz till me who i can control it using me laptop???? good work man.....
could this be done with a "good" laptop you could use to run the car and unplug to play games or do homework
OracsRevenge (author)  personperson6 years ago
Yep, I used a cut down laptop for space saving and so I could ruggedise it inside a metal box. There are other commercial robot kits around that have cradles for a laptop to sit in.
sueman26 years ago
is there any lights or any other unneeded electrical parts in the rc car i can hook an airsoft gun too. i need an anser quick so antbody who ownes one of these beast plz message me any thing that isn't needed for driving and turning that can be used. (has to be able to turn off/on from controler)
omnibot sueman26 years ago
What about that 4-channel remote for the power on/off? sounds like there's room for something destructive there.
OracsRevenge (author)  omnibot6 years ago
There could be, but that link is a low power keyfob based system. If you wanted to control weapons, etc, the best method would be via the wirelss link to the monitoring laptop. You could make it do anything you want, the outputs would be provided by the SSC32 servo controller.
OracsRevenge (author)  sueman26 years ago
Only 2 channel I'm afraid.
Nameless376 years ago
Put in a AT&T or Verizon internet card and use from anywhere! The possibilities.....
sueman26 years ago
actually can someone post a pic of the controler
Lurch6 years ago
I was enjoying that till I hit the '$' bit. :P
temp6 years ago
It's like my cat if you put something wierd in front of him he backs up. but as you pull i away he's drawn to it.
neardood7 years ago
sweet, whats the range of Rc/ Camera
OracsRevenge (author)  neardood7 years ago
Hi, there is no RC, the camera feed is processed by the on board laptop. You can watch it all going on on another laptop wirelessly, just limited by the range of the two WiFi cards.
sry, I didnt fully read teh instructable. But the fact that the robot is totally independant is even cooler.
neardood7 years ago
dude that is awesome!!!! How far away can the ball go away from the robot before it follows it?
OracsRevenge (author)  neardood7 years ago
It can be adjusted in RoboRealm, probably around 6m, depending on the quality of the webcam.
minyfly7 years ago
Great job and congratulations for the trossen robotics contest. I actually made a robot very similar to this. I used an old rc car chassis, and a laptop on top. I even used roborealm for the software. The only difference was I used a usb servo controller, and modified servos for the moters. I ran into some power, and stability issues so i decided just to scrap it and start over. Best of luck for future modifications.
OracsRevenge (author)  minyfly7 years ago
Thanks, I am considering attaching a simple tethered drone to the robot which can be deployed vertically and reeled back in. should be quite a challenge
video was hilarious on how to just played with it... i love the robot... how long does the battery last?
OracsRevenge (author)  jonathan951237 years ago
Hi, the battery is an old 12V Sealed Lead Acid battery I had lying around. It probably lasts for only about 30 minutes. A new SLA would last considerably longer, but I think I will upgrade to a LIPO battery which will give significant improvements. Most of the time is spent testing and adjusting, so I use a 12V power supply to run the robot and only resort to battery when doing demos or outside testing.
harsim897 years ago
Hellow, Thanks a lot man for your Pic and about the comment to delete it is already deleted Thanks
harsim897 years ago
Hellow I wante to now the scale of the truck and what is the dimension of your wheels. Thanks
OracsRevenge (author)  harsim897 years ago
Its a 1:6 and the wheels are 9 inches in diameter. The wheels are not pneumatic, but are a kind of foam filled plastic.
harsim897 years ago
Ok, I wanted to now i have a PC can i use its Motherboard and processor it is 1.2 ghz, with 512 ram Its out of date for me, I have a another PC too with is much in date with 8800gtx graphic card. I wanted to place this on my cranne, It is equiped with 6 motors and gearboxes for different purpose
OracsRevenge (author)  harsim897 years ago
Sounds fine for RoboRealm. What you can do is simply setup the PC, attach a webcam and then play with the software for a while to make sure it will work for your application. You can get a lot more info on the RR website.
harsim897 years ago
hi, Nice job man, I wanted to now can i use any mother board set. and what should be the speed of prcessor. and ya could you sed me more pic of your robot and a digram My Id harsim89_randhawa@yahoo.com and ya add me to your ID wanted to show my robot
OracsRevenge (author)  harsim897 years ago
Hi, the laptop I used was a dell C610 1.2ghz. Not sure how low you could go with the specs, but I imagine as you lower the specs, you lower the frames per second in RoboRealm. I have 8 or 9 pictures in the instructable, let me know what in particular you need a photo of. Thanks
Josh_B7 years ago
Very cool! Better than those I've bought from "The Shack".

I found most of the parts at various places on the Internet. Most were at eBay, but the speed controller (a.k.a motor driver) and servo controller were at specialty shops.

SSC-32 Servo Controller
Logitech Pro 9000 Webcam
Sabertooth 2x 10A Speed Controller
Dell C610 Laptops
12v Batteries
RS232 to TTL Converter
USB to RS232 Converter
USB Hubs
12v Fans

RoboRealm (this is free)
UltraVNC (also free)
Josh_B Josh_B7 years ago
You can get the truck from Amazon
sumlogic7 years ago
hey great instructable ° now I want one on converting a RC helicopter
NICE great job this is very good I would lover to make one! :D
RPisces7 years ago
Very, very nice. Good job. I wish I had the programming skills to use a laptop PC in conjunction with raw robot hardware! What kind of programming did you have to use for this robot? What languages/syntax?
OracsRevenge (author)  RPisces7 years ago
Thats the beauty of Roborealm, no programming at all if you use the example routines in RR. You can play around with tweaking the VB script module and use this as a platform to learn some basic programming as well. RR can also be used as a service which you can call from your own program if you want to write your own, more complex, program. I have it on good authority that RR are looking at incorporating more mapping and exploration modules to allow more control over your robot in the future.
So you just drag and drop in RR? That kindof defeats the purpose, don't you think? But then again I can't deny that that robot is pretty cool...
It depends on your purpose, I guess. If you have no experience, it's a good place to start and get your feet wet. You can start with this and once you've got the basics and an understanding move on to more advanced topics on your own.
OracsRevenge (author)  RPisces7 years ago
Certainly isn't just drag and drop. Its designed so that with minimal programming experience, you can get in and use it quickly with a good deal of functionality. You could then get more from it by calling it from your own C#. I am currently starting on a C# program to call RR, integrate the sensor inputs and map the environment.
Ohh, I see. Well, maybe sometime in the future (probably when I'm 4 years out of college :( ) I can have the $$$ to make something like this!
waterppk7 years ago
Nice, some friends of mine in the dorm made a truck the same way, but we used skype, some C# to atmel microcontroller (which did PWM to servos) and a tablet (laptop) pc on wireless. Worked awesome once you got used to the video delay.
You can check it out in the video here (on autonomous control) - towards the end it sees the fire extinguisher as more red than the book!

You can get the idea in the first like 40 seconds, sorry for the long video - we built this 2 years ago according to the video posting date - that makes me feel old. . .
OracsRevenge (author)  waterppk7 years ago
Looks good, I especially like the fist holes in the walls, proper student accommodation :D
i wish my basement housing was that much fun.
Jaller...7 years ago
Wow!5/5 stars added to favorites and voted!
bowmaster7 years ago
When I was 10 me and my brother took a old VHS camera and used belts to strap it on top of an rc truck and drove it on the side walk.
its a robo dog give it a semi-auto airsoft gun and teach it to shoot at blue people
Or brown people (CLOTHING, you racists!), damned UPS guys...
My 3yo sister did that a few weeks ago, saw a UPS guy and said "hey mommy it's a brown man.
No Smurf will be safe.
MI67 years ago
I agree with mackjr. I managed to supercharge one by cutting some holes in the plastic , putting some extra motors and batteries on top and linking thme straight onto the driveshaft by a belt. But this is amazing. Get the webcam to take a picture (if possible) and put it on it will look really good.
impressive you got skills
zjharva7 years ago
I saw something like this at maryland day at the university of maryland. Theirs were crazy, with aluminum everything. They went through a whole course of cones without any human input. But the guys who made them and programmed the were NERDS! good instructable!
roksraka7 years ago
how much money did u spend? (nice robot!)
OracsRevenge (author)  roksraka7 years ago
Hi, the info on the costs is posted in a comment a bit further down. Thanks
mwwdesign7 years ago
Video no longer available?
OracsRevenge (author)  mwwdesign7 years ago
They all work for me, must have been a Youtube glitch.
Arbitror7 years ago
Wow... This is awesome! rated:*****
tal0n7 years ago
the video looks pretty cool! ... maybe some day he would become a real dog! :P
darkmuskrat7 years ago
O' man. I have a R/C car that looks identical to that (an "E-Maxx" to be specific) now if i can mod something like this to it. maybe it can go 40miles an hour and drive itself....I know it would be almost impossible but gonna try (maybe) :P
technick297 years ago
Great work. That thing really is huge! (I agree, it is like a robotic dog, haha)
Patented7 years ago
Robot dog!
Coffee bean7 years ago
it is kinda like a dog it wants the ball but is somewhat afraid of it.
Nyanman7 years ago
neat robot. what about using an infra-red sense mod to the webcam and putting a battery and some IR LEDs in a clear plastic ball?
OracsRevenge (author) 7 years ago
The price kind of depends on your circumstances. I built the robot around stuff that I already had from previous failed robotics attempts. Things I had to buy were the truck, the webcam, the DC - DC laptop PSU and the failsafe which I suppose came to about $220. But any reasonable webcam will do (and can be removed after use for whatever people use webcams for :D) I also made another fail safe from an old toy RC plane that had a close encounter of the turf kind, which worked well. I have my own speed controllers from schematics on the web which I could also have used. Some people have made these from Emaxx trucks, which are $500 each on their own!! What I guess I am saying is that if you have some of this lying about and are willing to make some of the electronics, then it is just the cost of the truck. If you were starting from scratch and bought everything, including an old laptop, then maybe $500-$600 all in.
Sandisk1duo7 years ago
Nice Instructable! How much did it cost? oh, and that's a nice project box!
LinuxH4x0r7 years ago
Amazing Work! This looks great! The only thing I would change is to add a cell internet card so I could control it anywhere there is cell reception :)
me7 years ago
that is awesome keep up the good work