The Autonomous Shipboard Cleaning System (ASCS) was developed based on a Navy DoD grant, designed and built by Man Made Machines.
In this first post on the ASCS I want to show the hardware design of this industrial/commercial grade cleaning machine.
Below video shows the ASCS prototype, being demoed vacuuming flour poured on linoleum flooring:

The following video shows the ASCS being tested for detection and avoidance of personnel. The ASCS is using for this purpose a structured-light 3D imaging sensor:

The Features of the ASCS

The ASCS is equipped with multiple advanced features.

It is not only capable of cleaning autonomously confined rooms on a ship (such as a Navy shipboard), but also the really large areas such as the upper deck, a hangar on a Navy shipboard and the helicopter landing deck.

The ASCS is capable of cleaning walls, counters and overhangs.
Additionally it can autonomously detect, approach and clean tie-down holes. Tie-down holes are small dents in the floor of hangars and on helicopter landing decks on Navy shipboards, where ships and helicopters could be tied-down at. To clean these it has extendable rotating brushes in the front, which are connected to the internal vacuum.

The ASCS has a vacuum that allows vacuuming dry and wet areas. It is equipped with containers for three different cleaning solutions, to be able to apply a cleaning solution depending on the floor material autonomously. For this the front camera runs an algorithm that determines the floor material, to distinguish between:

  1. wood floors
  2. carpets
  3. hard-floors (stone, stucco, etc.)

The ASCS is built modular to be able to update/upgrade parts without having to renew all parts. It also allows for an easier transport of the system carrying parts with less weight as the full system. The different modules of the ASCS are

  1. Chassis Base
  2. Cover
  3. Wet/Dry Cleaning Module
  4. Brush Assembly
  5. Boom

The Chassis

The chassis contains the propulsion and main control system of the ASCS. Below image shows the SolidWorks design of the chassis on the left and the manufactured chassis on the right.

The vertical boxes in the back contain the main control (Intel i7 based). Each module has additionally its own ARM-based microprocessor to take care of the module specific functions. These microprocessors communicate over a serial port with the main control processor.
Two DC motors provide the propulsion. Also contained in the chassis is the main battery pack.

The Wet/Dry Cleaning Module

The wet/dry cleaning module contains two 24V wet/dry vacuum pumps: one for the floor cleaning brushes, one for the Cleaning Arm (Boom).

It has one 1.5l clear water container (covers an area of up to 450m2) and a container with three subsections for the three different cleaning solutions: one for wood flooring, one for carpets, one for hard-floors.
It has additionally a system of fluid-pumps to select, mix and dispense cleaning fluids.

Brush Assembly

The brush assembly for the floor cleaning is a separate module.

This module is equipped with two elongated side-arms, which are both equipped with an array of brushes. The brushes are turning during cleaning, driven by drive belts, which are propelled by dc motors. The turning orientation of these brush-arrays is designed to move dirt inward.

This module is also equipped with a large horizontal brush underneath. The dirt moved inward by the side-arms is lifted off from the ground toward the vacuuming nozzle in the back.

Further more is this module equipped with the rotating brushes, which move into the tie-down holes for cleaning. Linear motors lower these brushes up to 10cm down. Motors on their shafts take care of the axial rotation of these brushes.

The Cover

The chassis cover is not only a shell to hide and to protect the internal of the ASCS. It also contains all range-finding sensors of the system, required for mapping and orientation in the cleaning area. It is also equipped with a small touch-pad screen to user-program override.

The cover is equipped with a total of 27 ultrasonic sensors, which are read-out constantly to scan the environment. The reading of these ultrasonic sensors is performed by a dedicated microprocessor.
An additional 3D camera (opening for Kinect sensor in the photo) in the chassis detects more detailed information about the path and makes sure there are no collisions with personnel. The higher data rate coming from this 3D camera is processed by the main processor (Intel i7).

The Cleaning Arm (Boom)

The last module is the cleaning arm (or boom), which is designed to clean walls and overhangs.

This boom is equipped with a lower telescopic part, a mid part to turn the head to surfaces and an upper part with a linear slider. Linear motors are implemented to unfold the boom.

The cleaning head moves along the linear slide up and down for cleaning. The cleaning head is equipped with two brushes, a vacuuming nozzle and a cleaning fluid spray.The cleaning head is equipped with range sensors to adjust to cleaning surfaces.

The Combined ASCS with Cover Removed

Below image shows 3D CAD design and manufactured ASCS with the cover removed, so that the Wet/Dry Cleaning Module, the Brush Module, the Chassis and the Boom can be seen.

Below image shows the assembled four modules from a second perspective.


The Autonomous Shipboard Cleaning System (ASCS) was developed, supported by a Navy DoD grant, as a commercial grade autonomous cleaning system capable of cleaning many of the very challanging environments of a Navy shipboard. These can be very large areas, but also very confined areas.

You can find here on GrabCad the hardware design files to the ASCS. The design was done using a SolidWorks 2013 edition.

Man Made Machines has since worked on several other robotic developments. These were custom robots to address very challenging areas not or only in danger being accessible by humans, such as for oil rigs or for container ships.