- Created: 12 May 2011
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The Ranger is a self-contained, portable, automated pop-up target system. It is designed to be easily assembled from a kit, and use off-the-shelf components, to make it the most affordable system of its kind on the market.
Before the Ranger, the cheapest automated targets available cost thousands of dollars minimum, and were combined with overly-elaborate control systems. Through careful design, and by drawing on common components from a variety of industries, we have created a fully-automated pop-up target system that is flexible, portable, and less expensive. The price drops from thousands to hundreds of dollars. This puts fun, effective training and scenario shooting in reach of everyone.
The "brains" of the Ranger are an Arduino microcontroller. The Arduino is powerful, flexible, computing tool that is commonly used for lots of robotics, automation, and prototyping tasks. There is plenty of expansion capability left to add custom sensors (e.g. electronic tripwires), feedback (e.g. LCD screen), and communications (e.g. wireless triggering and control). The program that the Ranger comes with initially stored in the Arduino raises and lowers the target at random intervals, to add fun and a touch of the unexpected to shooting and training. No programming is ever needed in order to just continue using the default program, and future updates and complete pre-made programs can be loaded with no programming knowledge. The settings for the down position and up position delays can be quickly modified with a computer, without programming skills. For the adventurous, writing your own programs provides almost limitless possibilities.
The target is physically lifted by a simple, powerful, and robust pneumatics system. The piston develops over 170 pounds of force at 100 PSI of pressure, which exerts over 40 foot-pounds of torque on the pivot/axle. Even moderate winds won't keep the target down. In fact, the plastic target silhouette will flex and bend over before the pneumatics will ever give out. The system runs off about 100 PSI, which is considered low pressure, and is fed by a CO2 tank (about 850 PSI) though a regulator. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an efficiently stored gas, and is actually a liquid inside the tank. CO2 paintballs tanks, such as though used by the Ranger, can be filled for about $3-7 at many local stores, such as welding suppliers and sporting goods retailers. The tanks are inexpensive, so taking a few extras is a great way to extend your use of the Ranger.
The frame of the Ranger was designed so that it can be made of either metal or inexpensive plywood. Plywood offers a cheap solution in uses such as paintball and archery, where damage to the system isn't likely. The plywood frame can also be used for firearms if the system is protected in another way, such as a berm, trench, sandbags, or metal deflector plate. The metal frame is available for maximum defense against damage from projectiles, and the front deflector is angled extremely low to afford maximum protection.
Currently, the Ranger is autonomous and non-interactive. It does not take cues on when to rise or fall, and does not sense impacts or respond. We're testing methods that will eventually add inexpensive impact detection, most likely through sound or force monitoring. These could prove to be as simple as a $30 component that you plug into the controller, and a free software update. Wireless communications add-ons are also available for the microcontroller, which could allow future versions to be commanded remotely from a laptop or another device. The idea is that upgrades should be simple and inexpensive to add, and optional.