Igor Bogoslavskyi successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled “Robot mapping and navigation in real-world environments” at the University of Bonn on the Photogrammetry & Robotics Lab.
Download the PhD thesis
Robots can perform various tasks, such as mapping hazardous sites, taking part in search-and-rescue scenarios, or delivering goods and people. Robots operating in the real world face many challenges on the way to the completion of their mission. Essential capabilities required for the operation of such robots are mapping, localization and navigation. Solving all of these tasks robustly presents a substantial di culty as these components are usually interconnected, i.e., a robot that starts without any knowledge about the environment must simultaneously build a map, localize itself in it, analyze the surroundings and plan a path to efficiently explore an unknown environment. In addition to the interconnections between these tasks, they highly depend on the sensors used by the robot and on the type of the environment in which the robot operates. For example, an RGB camera can be used in an outdoor scene for computing visual odometry, or to detect dynamic objects but becomes less useful in an environment that does not have enough light for cameras to operate. The software that controls the behavior of the robot must seamlessly process all the data coming from different sensors. This often leads to systems that are tailored to a particular robot and a particular set of sensors. In this thesis, we challenge this concept by developing and implementing methods for a typical robot navigation pipeline that can work with different types of sensors seamlessly both, in indoor and outdoor environments. With the emergence of new range-sensing RGBD and LiDAR sensors, there is an opportunity to build a single system that can operate robustly both in indoor and outdoor environments equally well and, thus, extends the application areas of mobile robots.
The techniques presented in this thesis aim to be used with both RGBD and LiDAR sensors without adaptations for individual sensor models by using range image representation and aim to provide methods for navigation and scene interpretation in both static and dynamic environments. For a static world, we present a number of approaches that address the core components of a typical robot navigation pipeline. At the core of building a consistent map of the environment using a mobile robot lies point cloud matching. To this end, we present a method for photometric point cloud matching that treats RGBD and LiDAR sensors in a uniform fashion and is able to accurately register point clouds at the frame rate of the sensor. This method serves as a building block for the further mapping pipeline. In addition to the matching algorithm, we present a method for traversability analysis of the currently observed terrain in order to guide an autonomous robot to the safe parts of the surrounding environment. A source of danger when navigating di cult to access sites is the fact that the robot may fail in building a correct map of the environment. This dramatically impacts the ability of an autonomous robot to navigate towards its goal in a robust way, thus, it is important for the robot to be able to detect these situations and in this way home not relying on any kind of map. To address this challenge, we present a method for analyzing the quality of the map that the robot has built to date, and safely returning the robot to the starting point in case the map is found to be in an inconsistent state.
The scenes in dynamic environments are vastly different from the ones experienced in static ones. In a dynamic setting, objects can be moving, thus making static traversability estimates not enough. With the approaches developed in this thesis, we aim at identifying distinct objects and tracking them to aid navigation and scene understanding. We target these challenges by providing a method for clustering a scene taken with a LiDAR scanner and a measure that can be used to determine if two clustered objects are similar that can aid the tracking performance.
All methods presented in this thesis are capable of supporting real-time robot operation, rely on RGBD or LiDAR sensors and have been tested on real robots in real-world environments and on real-world datasets. All approaches have been published in peer-reviewed conference papers and journal articles. In addition to that, most of the presented contributions have been released publicly as open source software.