The Crawlspace Crawler

This crawlspace crawler FPV robot is a fairly simple build. [Jeff G] bought a boxy chassis kit with frame, motors, and wheels, mounted lights and camera, and we get to see it in action (video, embedded below).

As always, the details are where it’s at, and his overview covers most of the high points. [Jeff] went for relatively slow 60 RPM motors so that he’d have plenty of grunt. The FPV setup is particularly simple – he bought a cheap Flysky i6 transmitter and receiver, and an Eachine TX05 all-in-one camera and transmitter. An interesting choice was a USB UVC video receiver so he can watch the footage on a computer, tablet, or a cell phone, which means he didn’t have to shell out for expensive FPV goggles. We also love the sticks-and-zip-ties used as feelers, letting him know when he’s about to get stuck, but that also serve as a visual frame for the camera.

The FPV Contest just came to an end, and we’ll be announcing the winners soon! If you find any inspiration there for your own project, [Jeff]’s simple basis here should get you started on the right track.

Thanks [Lilja] for the tip!

35 thoughts on “The Crawlspace Crawler

  1. I’ve used an RC car to run a pull string for ethernet cable up in a drop ceiling. In a big Burlington Coat Factory, saved moving the ladder probably 20x, it wasn’t FPV, we could hear where it was from underneath and got it started on a clear path initially from a ladder.

    1. I also used an RC car to pull ethernet under the house. I also had a cheap cellphone as a wifi webcam, and LED lights. I had a powerful neodymium magnet attached to the end of the ethernet cable, and another magnet on a long stick so when the car arrived near the destination, I just had to stick the magnet stick into the hole and the ethernet cable snapped right to it. The magnets would attract at about 5 inches, so I had a pretty easy time getting the ethernet cable out. Also had a rope attached to the RC car, because it did get stuck a few times, and I was able to pull it back.

    2. Boeing used to use ferrets to run cables down pipes and linear spaces with only one exit. If you don’t mind the occasional bit of ferret poop they’re actually a fairly effective partner animal to work with. A bit spastic with a tendency to play, but affectionate and quite bendy.

      Good luck steering one with an FPV rig though. I could barely get ours to come when I called.

  2. This is awesome, I’ve been working on a tracked bot with an articulated servo arm to help me run cable in crawlspaces (too many damn spiders). After all the gearbox issues I’ve had this looks very appealing

    1. You will see giant spiders and camel crickets and whoa if you encounter a rodent. It’s almost like another world. Unlike the Mars’ explorers with dust on the solar panels you WILL need cobweb clearing for the FPV optics. Lots of it. It will ball up with dirt on the wheels and arms and stick on. Let’s see if it really is stronger than steel.

      Open flame seems to make it all vanish in an instant. Hit the nest, gone in a flash of flame with falling blobs of them hitting the floor. Maybe make a first pass visit with flame and an extinguisher to make it safe and clean for human work. Popular scene in scifi when 8-Legs get out of control. Burn ’em!

    2. What tracked platform are you using?

      I play with rovers made from the lower halves of Heng long 1:16 tanks with COTS hobby electronics and ardurover. Tend to use the plastic gearboxes till they shit themselves then swap them for metal ones. all with plastic tracks and suspension. They last a good while of outdoor use and have plenty of grunt. I imagine they would be more than suitable for a duct runner.

    1. My kids refuse to go under the house and I can’t say I blame them. This idea has occurred to me on several occasions but I always ended up putting on the coveralls and a ski hat going for it. Misery.

      Looking back on the hours that I spent under this damn house just trying to figure out what was going on, $600 bucks seems like a fine deal to me.

      Crawl spaces are the worst, cheapest, laziest garbage in home building. And in California at least, there’s a whole industry now dedicated to bolting the stupid house down because they fall off the piers in earthquakes. If only they had proper foundations and basements. As a native New Englander that’s sort of thing leaves me puzzled and dismayed every time I have to deal with it. Oh God and don’t even get me started about rats, skunks, possums, snakes and black widow spiders. And their excrement. And if a pipe is leaking you have to lay in that muddy filth.

      1. The bottoms of peoples foundations have to be under the frost line. When they’re down there anyhow it would be insane not to build a basement.

        CA’s frost line is about an inch. Also earthquakes.

        Did you miss home last weak when it was 30 below zero? I didn’t. Something like 50 people died of ‘snow’.

        The worst are the tension slabs. The tension wires in those are wear items. I don’t get that. A house on a slab that’s guaranteed to break in 40 years. Then again, wouldn’t do to have the foundation be a pain to demo when the house falls in.

        I’ve got 3 foot tall crawlspace, pilings and a shear type concrete foundation on the front 3 meters. Structure is dimensional redwood./ smug

        Wish I had a basement. So much stuff goes down there. Don’t miss the cold one bit.

        On GP’s post:
        We wished we had a house to crawl under…

  3. Also done this with a rc tank. However used a old analog cctv camera with some rg6 attached to it. Came in handy as a pull line or when the tank got stuck since I mostly did this in residential homes in between floors. Pop out a can light or ac vent to minimize drywall damage.

  4. Very cool. It is not a perfect vehicle for the rock crawling, especially as in the footage its axis doesn’t tilt and therefore, the other front wheel doesn’t touch the ground, when the other goes over the obstacle. Yet, the crawler can do the job, and it provides a maintenance look around in the crawl space.

    Going further into the twenties, using robotic assistance is becoming a main daily thing, and the Ai might not even be present, because why should it be when the user is capable of doing it. Not talking about solving the problems in fly.

    1. My friends in Austin, TX wanted to have a basement when they built their house 🏠. But couldn’t find a contractor willing to dig one, or they wanted a lot of money to do so. The ground in their neighborhood is very hard.

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