Clearpath robots on Windows 10

If you are a part of the ROS community and have been to any of the recent ROS conferences, you surely must have seen a Clearpath Robotics robot. Clearpath Robotics is a global leader in ROS based unmanned mobile robots serving the agricultural, mining, industrial material handling, military, and research sectors. This May 2020, starting with the Jackal UGV, Clearpath has announced support for Windows 10 IoT Enterprise on its Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs). In 2019, Microsoft announced the support of Robot Operating System ROS™ 1 on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise, enabling customers to integrate robots into Windows based solutions. Clearpath and Microsoft worked together to give their customers another OS choice when developing robotic systems. The Jackal is a small and rugged mobile robot suitable for use cases like remote environmental monitoring and inspection that require outdoor navigation and/or human robot interaction. It comes with an onboard computer, GPS and IMU fully integrated with ROS for out-of-the-box autonomous capability.

Porting the Jackal to Windows meant that Clearpath had to first upgrade the Jackal firmware to ROS Melodic. Once that was done, the dependent packages had to be ported. Since Microsoft had already ported most of the commonly used packages to Windows, Clearpath had fewer packages to deal with like Slam GMapping, Intel RealSense™ ROS node, and GPS related nodes. With more ROS packages enabled on Windows, now ROS on Windows is even easier to integrate.

Windows 10 IoT Enterprise provide customers with the following key benefits that is applicable to robotic use cases as well:

  • Enterprise grade security: Microsoft is continuously evolving Windows security architecture that encompasses devices, data, and user identities. With comprehensive tools for protecting data on a device, assessing device health, detecting security issues, and remediating threats through device updates and management, Windows 10 IoT ensures that you have the latest security advances throughout development, deployment, and operation.
  • Easy cloud connectivity: Windows 10 IoT Enterprise provides you with the easy on-ramp to Azure IoT, enabling you to use relevant cloud services, using the Azure IoT Hub ROS Node, to analyze data, gain insights and take actions at the edge.
  • More Intelligence: The Windows ML ROS node allows you to deploy a pre-trained ONNX machine learning model, on a robot for low-latency image processing on the edge. The WinML ROS node accelerates the ONNX model using compatible hardware – either CPU, GPU, or Neural Accelerators – to publish Markers into the ROS graph which can be used for obstacle avoidance or environmental understanding.
  • Faster development: Development on Windows 10 offers the same familiar development environments, tools, and framework, that enables you to create and deploy solutions faster. If you are coding your ROS application, using the VS Code Extension for ROS, you can quickly bring up your ROS environment, it provides you with integrated build tasks and debugging capability over roslaunch. It also renders the Unified Robot Description Format (URDF), which saves developers time when editing URDF files. Once you are ready to move to production, easily enable Continuous Integration, Continuous Simulation and Continuous Deployment using Azure DevOps. Adding simulation-based tests to your CI/CD pipeline, ensures that in addition to the unit, integration, and regression tests, you can also validate that your robot functions as expected, in environments where they would be deployed. Microsoft, as our participation with the ROS2 Technical Steering Committee contributed to the Tooling workgroup to enable CI/CD using GitHub Actions as well.

As our customers work towards realizing their vision of automation using robots, they can easily benefit from the existing enterprise class security, manageability, application, and peripheral support of the Windows ecosystem. This coupled with Microsoft’s investments in ROS, puts customers on a fast path to deploy to production, all the while operating within the framework of their corporate IT policies.

So, if you are a ROS developer looking to take your robots to production on Windows or a Microsoft developer looking to use robots, we would love to hear from you and feature your initiative here. Reach out to us at Let’s talk!

DISCLAIMER: This document is for informational purposes only. Microsoft makes no warranties, expressed or implied, in this summary.

  1. ROS is a trademark of Open Robotics