This paper addresses real-time dense 3D reconstruction for a resource-constrained Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). Underwater vision-guided operations are among the most challenging as they combine 3D motion in the presence of external forces, limited visibility, and absence of global positioning. Obstacle avoidance and effective path planning require online dense reconstructions of the environment. Autonomous operation is central to environmental monitoring, marine archaeology, resource utilization, and underwater cave exploration. To address this problem, we propose to use SVIn2, a robust VIO method, together with a real-time 3D reconstruction pipeline. We provide extensive evaluation on four challenging underwater datasets. Our pipeline produces comparable reconstruction with that of COLMAP, the state-of-the-art offline 3D reconstruction method, at high frame rates on a single CPU.
This paper addresses the robustness problem of visual-inertial state estimation for underwater operations. Underwater robots operating in a challenging environment are required to know their pose at all times. All vision-based localization schemes are prone to failure due to poor visibility conditions, color loss, and lack of features. The proposed approach utilizes a model of the robot's kinematics together with proprioceptive sensors to maintain the pose estimate during visual-inertial odometry (VIO) failures. Furthermore, the trajectories from successful VIO and the ones from the model-driven odometry are integrated in a coherent set that maintains a consistent pose at all times. Health-monitoring tracks the VIO process ensuring timely switches between the two estimators. Finally, loop closure is implemented on the overall trajectory. The resulting framework is a robust estimator switching between model-based and visual-inertial odometry (SM/VIO). Experimental results from numerous deployments of the Aqua2 vehicle demonstrate the robustness of our approach over coral reefs and a shipwreck.
Underwater caves are challenging environments that are crucial for water resource management, and for our understanding of hydro-geology and history. Mapping underwater caves is a time-consuming, labor-intensive, and hazardous operation. For autonomous cave mapping by underwater robots, the major challenge lies in vision-based estimation in the complete absence of ambient light, which results in constantly moving shadows due to the motion of the camera-light setup. Thus, detecting and following the caveline as navigation guidance is paramount for robots in autonomous cave mapping missions. In this paper, we present a computationally light caveline detection model based on a novel Vision Transformer (ViT)-based learning pipeline. We address the problem of scarce annotated training data by a weakly supervised formulation where the learning is reinforced through a series of noisy predictions from intermediate sub-optimal models. We validate the utility and effectiveness of such weak supervision for caveline detection and tracking in three different cave locations: USA, Mexico, and Spain. Experimental results demonstrate that our proposed model, CL-ViT, balances the robustness-efficiency trade-off, ensuring good generalization performance while offering 10+ FPS on single-board (Jetson TX2) devices.
In this paper we present a complete framework for Underwater SLAM utilizing a single inexpensive sensor. Over the recent years, imaging technology of action cameras is producing stunning results even under the challenging conditions of the underwater domain. The GoPro 9 camera provides high definition video in synchronization with an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) data stream encoded in a single mp4 file. The visual inertial SLAM framework is augmented to adjust the map after each loop closure. Data collected at an artificial wreck of the coast of South Carolina and in caverns and caves in Florida demonstrate the robustness of the proposed approach in a variety of conditions.
We consider how to directly extract a road map (also known as a topological representation) of an initially-unknown 2-dimensional environment via an online procedure that robustly computes a retraction of its boundaries. In this article, we first present the online construction of a topological map and the implementation of a control law for guiding the robot to the nearest unexplored area, first presented in . The proposed method operates by allowing the robot to localize itself on a partially constructed map, calculate a path to unexplored parts of the environment (frontiers), compute a robust terminating condition when the robot has fully explored the environment, and achieve loop closure detection. The proposed algorithm results in smooth safe paths for the robot's navigation needs. The presented approach is any time algorithm that has the advantage that it allows for the active creation of topological maps from laser scan data, as it is being acquired. We also propose a navigation strategy based on a heuristic where the robot is directed towards nodes in the topological map that open to empty space. We then extend the work in  by presenting a topology matching algorithm that leverages the strengths of a particular spectral correspondence method , to match the mapped environments generated from our topology-making algorithm. Here, we concentrated on implementing a system that could be used to match the topologies of the mapped environment by using AOF Skeletons. In topology matching between two given maps and their AOF skeletons, we first find correspondences between points on the AOF skeletons of two different environments. We then align the (2D) points of the environments themselves. We also compute a distance measure between two given environments, based on their extracted AOF skeletons and their topology, as the sum of the matching errors between corresponding points.
Visual monitoring operations underwater require both observing the objects of interest in close-proximity, and tracking the few feature-rich areas necessary for state estimation.This paper introduces the first navigation framework, called AquaVis, that produces on-line visibility-aware motion plans that enable Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to track multiple visual objectives with an arbitrary camera configuration in real-time. Using the proposed pipeline, AUVs can efficiently move in 3D, reach their goals while avoiding obstacles safely, and maximizing the visibility of multiple objectives along the path within a specified proximity. The method is sufficiently fast to be executed in real-time and is suitable for single or multiple camera configurations. Experimental results show the significant improvement on tracking multiple automatically-extracted points of interest, with low computational overhead and fast re-planning times
This paper addresses the problem of robotic operations in the presence of adversarial forces. We presents a complete framework for survey operations: waypoint generation,modelling of forces and tuning the control. In many applications of environmental monitoring, search and exploration, and bathymetric mapping, the vehicle has to traverse in straight lines parallel to each other, ensuring there are no gaps and no redundant coverage. During operations with an Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV) however, the presence of wind and/or currents produces external forces acting on the vehicle which quite often divert it from its intended path. Similar issues have been encountered during aerial or underwater operations. By measuring these phenomena, wind and current, and modelling their impact on the vessel, actions can be taken to alleviate their effect and ensure the correct trajectory is followed.
In this paper, we propose a real-time deep-learning approach for determining the 6D relative pose of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) from a single image. A team of autonomous robots localizing themselves, in a communication-constrained underwater environment, is essential for many applications such as underwater exploration, mapping, multi-robot convoying, and other multi-robot tasks. Due to the profound difficulty of collecting ground truth images with accurate 6D poses underwater, this work utilizes rendered images from the Unreal Game Engine simulation for training. An image translation network is employed to bridge the gap between the rendered and the real images producing synthetic images for training. The proposed method predicts the 6D pose of an AUV from a single image as 2D image keypoints representing 8 corners of the 3D model of the AUV, and then the 6D pose in the camera coordinates is determined using RANSAC-based PnP. Experimental results in underwater environments (swimming pool and ocean) with different cameras demonstrate the robustness of the proposed technique, where the trained system decreased translation error by 75.5% and orientation error by 64.6% over the state-of-the-art methods.
The ability to navigate, search, and monitor dynamic marine environments such as ports, deltas, tributaries, and rivers presents several challenges to both human operated and autonomously operated surface vehicles. Human data collection and monitoring is overly taxing and inconsistent when faced with large coverage areas, disturbed environments, and potentially uninhabitable situations. In contrast,the same missions become achievable with Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs)configured and capable of accurately maneuvering in such environments. The two dynamic factors that present formidable challenges to completing precise maneuvers in coastal and moving waters are currents and winds. In this work, we present novel and inexpensive methods for sensing these external forces, together with methods for accurately controlling an ASV in the presence of such external forces. The resulting platform is capable of deploying bathymetric and water quality monitoring sensors. Experimental results in local lakes and rivers demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed approach.
Environmental monitoring and surveying operations on rivers currently are performed primarily with manually-operated boats. In this domain, autonomous coverage of areas is of vital importance, for improving both the quality and the efficiency of coverage. This paper leverages human expertise in river exploration and data collection strategies to automate and optimize these processes using autonomous surface vehicles(ASVs). In particular, three deterministic algorithms for both partial and complete coverage of a river segment are proposed,providing varying path length, coverage density, and turning patterns. These strategies resulted in increases in accuracy and efficiency compared to human performance.The proposed methods were extensively tested in simulation using maps of real rivers of different shapes and sizes. In addition, to verify their performance in real world operations, the algorithms were deployed successfully on several parts of the Congaree River in South Carolina, USA, resulting in total of more than 35km of coverage trajectories in the field.