Large-Area Visually Augmented Navigation for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

Ryan M. Eustice, Ph.D., 2005
Hanu Singh, John Leonard, Advisors

This thesis describes a vision-based, large-area, simultaneous localization and mapping algorithm (SLAM) that respects the low-overlap imagery constraints typical of autonomous underwater vehicles while exploiting the inertial sensor information that is routinely available on such platforms. We adopt a systems-level approach exploiting the complementary aspects of inertial sensing and visual perception from a calibrated pose-instrumented platform. This systems-level strategy yields a robust solution to underwater imaging that overcomes many of the unique challenges of a marine environment (e.g., unstructured terrain, low-overlap imagery, moving light source).

Our large-area SLAM algorithm recursively incorporates relative-pose constraints using a view-based representation that exploits exact sparsity in the Gaussian canonical form. This sparsity allows for efficient O(n) update complexity in the number of images composing the view-based map by utilizing recent multilevel relaxation techniques. We show that our algorithmic formulation is inherently sparse unlike other feature-based canonical SLAM algorithms, which impose sparseness via pruning approximations. In particular, we investigate the sparsification methodology employed by SEIF and offer new insight as to why, and how, its approximation can lead to inconsistencies in the estimated state errors. Lastly, we present a novel algorithm for efficiently extracting consistent marginal covariances useful for data association from the information matrix.