Mapping with Micro Aerial Vehicles by Registration of Sparse 3D Laser Scans

Sven Behnke
International Conference on Intelligent Autonomous Systems (IAS), Padova, Italy(2014)


Micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) pose specific constraints on onboard sensing, mainly limited payload and limited processing power. For accurate 3D mapping even in GPS denied environments, we have designed a light-weight 3D laser scanner specifically for the application on MAVs. Similar to other custom-built 3D laser scanners composed of a rotating 2D laser range finder, it exhibits different point densities within and between individual scan lines. When rotated fast, such non-uniform point densities influence neighborhood searches which in turn may negatively affect local feature estimation and scan registration. We present a complete pipeline for 3D mapping including pair-wise registration and global alignment of 3D scans acquired in-flight. For registration, we extend a state-of-the-art registration algorithm to include topological information from approximate surface reconstructions. For global alignment, we use a graph-based approach making use of the same error metric and iteratively refine the complete vehicle trajectory. In experiments, we show that our approach can compensate for the effects caused by different point densities up to very low angular resolutions and that we can build accurate and consistent 3D maps in-flight with a micro aerial vehicle.

Research Areas