Estimation, planning, and mapping for autonomous flight using an RGB-D camera in GPS-denied environments
RGB-D cameras provide both color images and per-pixel depth estimates. The richness of this data and the recent development of low-cost sensors have combined to present an attractive opportunity for mobile robotics research. In this paper, we describe a system for visual odometry and mapping using an RGB-D camera, and its application to autonomous flight. By leveraging results from recent state-of-the-art algorithms and hardware, our system enables 3D flight in cluttered environments using only onboard sensor data. All computation and sensing required for local position control are performed onboard the vehicle, reducing the dependence on an unreliable wireless link to a ground station. However, even with accurate 3D sensing and position estimation, some parts of the environment have more perceptual structure than others, leading to state estimates that vary in accuracy across the environment. If the vehicle plans a path without regard to how well it can localize itself along that path, it runs the risk of becoming lost or worse. We show how the belief roadmap algorithm, a belief space extension of the probabilistic roadmap algorithm, can be used to plan vehicle trajectories that incorporate the sensing model of the RGB-D camera. We evaluate the effectiveness of our system for controlling a quadrotor micro air vehicle, demonstrate its use for constructing detailed 3D maps of an indoor environment, and discuss its limitations.