There is a current increase in the development of "4D" Doppler-capable radar and lidar range sensors that produce 3D point clouds where all points also have information about the radial velocity relative to the sensor. 4D radars in particular are interesting for object perception and navigation in low-visibility conditions (dust, smoke) where lidars and cameras typically fail. With the advent of high-resolution Doppler-capable radars comes the possibility of estimating odometry from single point clouds, foregoing the need for scan registration which is error-prone in feature-sparse field environments. We compare several odometry estimation methods, from direct integration of Doppler/IMU data and Kalman filter sensor fusion to 3D scan-to-scan and scan-to-map registration, on three datasets with data from two recent 4D radars and two IMUs. Surprisingly, our results show that the odometry from Doppler and IMU data alone give similar or better results than 3D point cloud registration. In our experiments, the average position error can be as low as 0.3% over 1.8 and 4.5km trajectories. That allows accurate estimation of 6DOF ego-motion over long distances also in feature-sparse mine environments. These results are useful not least for applications of navigation with resource-constrained robot platforms in feature-sparse and low-visibility conditions such as mining, construction, and search & rescue operations.
* Preprint. Submitted to ICRA 2024. 7 pages, 11 figures
We present a novel 3D odometry method that recovers the full motion of a vehicle only from a Doppler-capable range sensor. It leverages the radial velocities measured from the scene, estimating the sensor's velocity from a single scan. The vehicle's 3D motion, defined by its linear and angular velocities, is calculated taking into consideration its kinematic model which provides a constraint between the velocity measured at the sensor frame and the vehicle frame. Experiments carried out prove the viability of our single-sensor method compared to mounting an additional IMU. Our method provides the translation of the sensor, which cannot be reliably determined from an IMU, as well as its rotation. Its short-term accuracy and fast operation (~5ms) make it a proper candidate to supply the initialization to more complex localization algorithms or mapping pipelines. Not only does it reduce the error of the mapper, but it does so at a comparable level of accuracy as an IMU would. All without the need to mount and calibrate an extra sensor on the vehicle.
* This work has been submitted to the IEEE for possible publication.
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Robust SLAM in large-scale environments requires fault resilience and awareness at multiple stages, from sensing and odometry estimation to loop closure. In this work, we present TBV (Trust But Verify) Radar SLAM, a method for radar SLAM that introspectively verifies loop closure candidates. TBV Radar SLAM achieves a high correct-loop-retrieval rate by combining multiple place-recognition techniques: tightly coupled place similarity and odometry uncertainty search, creating loop descriptors from origin-shifted scans, and delaying loop selection until after verification. Robustness to false constraints is achieved by carefully verifying and selecting the most likely ones from multiple loop constraints. Importantly, the verification and selection are carried out after registration when additional sources of loop evidence can easily be computed. We integrate our loop retrieval and verification method with a fault-resilient odometry pipeline within a pose graph framework. By evaluating on public benchmarks we found that TBV Radar SLAM achieves 65% lower error than the previous state of the art. We also show that it's generalizing across environments without needing to change any parameters.
In the context of robotics, accurate ground-truth positioning is the cornerstone for the development of mapping and localization algorithms. In outdoor environments and over long distances, total stations provide accurate and precise measurements, that are unaffected by the usual factors that deteriorate the accuracy of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). While a single robotic total station can track the position of a target in three Degrees Of Freedom (DOF), three robotic total stations and three targets are necessary to yield the full six DOF pose reference. Since it is crucial to express the position of targets in a common coordinate frame, we present a novel extrinsic calibration method of multiple robotic total stations with field deployment in mind. The proposed method does not require the manual collection of ground control points during the system setup, nor does it require tedious synchronous measurement on each robotic total station. Based on extensive experimental work, we compare our approach to the classical extrinsic calibration methods used in geomatics for surveying and demonstrate that our approach brings substantial time savings during the deployment. Tested on more than 30 km of trajectories, our new method increases the precision of the extrinsic calibration by 25 % compared to the best state-of-the-art method, which is the one taking manually static ground control points.
Visual and lidar Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) algorithms benefit from the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) modality. The high-rate inertial data complement the other lower-rate modalities. Moreover, in the absence of constant acceleration, the gravity vector makes two attitude angles out of three observable in the global coordinate frame. In visual odometry, this is already being used to reduce the 6-Degrees Of Freedom (DOF) pose estimation problem to 4-DOF. In lidar SLAM, the gravity measurements are often used as a penalty in the back-end global map optimization to prevent map deformations. In this work, we propose an Iterative Closest Point (ICP)-based front-end which exploits the observable DOF and provides pose estimates aligned with the gravity vector. We believe that this front-end has the potential to support the loop closure identification, thus speeding up convergences of global map optimizations. The presented approach has been extensively tested in large-scale outdoor environments as well as in the Subterranean Challenge organized by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). We show that it can reduce the localization drift by 30% when compared to the standard 6-DOF ICP. Moreover, the code is readily available to the community as a part of the libpointmatcher library.
* Preprint. Submitted to IROS 2022. 7 pages, 9 figures
Challenges inherent to autonomous wintertime navigation in forests include lack of reliable a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signal, low feature contrast, high illumination variations and changing environment. This type of off-road environment is an extreme case of situations autonomous cars could encounter in northern regions. Thus, it is important to understand the impact of this harsh environment on autonomous navigation systems. To this end, we present a field report analyzing teach-and-repeat navigation in a subarctic region while subject to large variations of meteorological conditions. First, we describe the system, which relies on point cloud registration to localize a mobile robot through a boreal forest, while simultaneously building a map. We experimentally evaluate this system in over 18.6 km of autonomous navigation in the teach-and-repeat mode. We show that dense vegetation perturbs the GNSS signal, rendering it unsuitable for navigation in forest trails. Furthermore, we highlight the increased uncertainty related to localizing using point cloud registration in forest corridors. We demonstrate that it is not snow precipitation, but snow accumulation that affects our system's ability to localize within the environment. Finally, we expose some lessons learned and challenges from our field campaign to support better experimental work in winter conditions.
* Preprint. Submitted to Field Robotics. 27 pages, 20 figures, 2 tables
We present a field report of CTU-CRAS-NORLAB team from the Subterranean Challenge (SubT) organised by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The contest seeks to advance technologies that would improve the safety and efficiency of search-and-rescue operations in GPS-denied environments. During the contest rounds, teams of mobile robots have to find specific objects while operating in environments with limited radio communication, e.g. mining tunnels, underground stations or natural caverns. We present a heterogeneous exploration robotic system of the CTU-CRAS-NORLAB team, which achieved the third rank at the SubT Tunnel and Urban Circuit rounds and surpassed the performance of all other non-DARPA-funded teams. The field report describes the team's hardware, sensors, algorithms and strategies, and discusses the lessons learned by participating at the DARPA SubT contest.
* This paper have already been accepted to be published Filed Robotics
special issue about DARPA SubT challange
Registration algorithms, such as Iterative Closest Point (ICP), have proven effective in mobile robot localization algorithms over the last decades. However, they are susceptible to failure when a robot sustains extreme velocities and accelerations. For example, this kind of motion can happen after a collision, causing a point cloud to be heavily skewed. While point cloud de-skewing methods have been explored in the past to increase localization and mapping accuracy, these methods still rely on highly accurate odometry systems or ideal navigation conditions. In this paper, we present a method taking into account the remaining motion uncertainties of the trajectory used to de-skew a point cloud along with the environment geometry to increase the robustness of current registration algorithms. We compare our method to three other solutions in a test bench producing 3D maps with peak accelerations of 200 m/s^2 and 800 rad/s^2. In these extreme scenarios, we demonstrate that our method decreases the error by 9.26 % in translation and by 21.84 % in rotation. The proposed method is generic enough to be integrated to many variants of weighted ICP without adaptation and supports localization robustness in harsher terrains.
* 8 pages, 8 figures, published in 2021 18th Conference on Robots and
Vision (CRV), Burnaby, Canada
In robotics, accurate ground-truth position fostered the development of mapping and localization algorithms through the creation of cornerstone datasets. In outdoor environments and over long distances, total stations are the most accurate and precise measurement instruments for this purpose. Most total station-based systems in the literature are limited to three Degrees Of Freedoms (DOFs), due to the use of a single-prism tracking approach. In this paper, we present preliminary work on measuring a full pose of a vehicle, bringing the referencing system to six DOFs. Three total stations are used to track in real time three prisms attached to a target platform. We describe the structure of the referencing system and the protocol for acquiring the ground truth with this system. We evaluated its precision in a variety of different outdoor environments, ranging from open-sky to forest trails, and compare this system with another popular source of reference position, the Real Time Kinematics (RTK) positioning solution. Results show that our approach is the most precise, reaching an average positional error of 10 mm and 0.6 deg. This difference in performance was particularly stark in environments where Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals can be weaker due to overreaching vegetation.
* Final version submitted and accepted in the 18th Conference on Robots
and Vision (CRV) in May 2021
Mapping algorithms that rely on registering point clouds inevitably suffer from local drift, both in localization and in the built map. Applications that require accurate maps, such as environmental monitoring, benefit from additional sensor modalities that reduce such drift. In our work, we target the family of mappers based on the Iterative Closest Point (ICP) algorithm which use additional orientation sources such as the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). We introduce a new angular penalty term derived from Lie algebra. Our formulation avoids the need for tuning arbitrary parameters. Orientation covariance is used instead, and the resulting error term fits into the ICP cost function minimization problem. Experiments performed on our own real-world data and on the KITTI dataset show consistent behavior while suppressing the effect of outlying IMU measurements. We further discuss promising experiments, which should lead to optimal combination of all error terms in the ICP cost function minimization problem, allowing us to smoothly combine the geometric and inertial information provided by robot sensors.
* Final version published in the International Conference on
Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) workshop in October 2020