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Vision Based UAV Attitude Estimation: Progress

and Insights

Abd El Rahman Shabayek, Cédric Demonceaux, Olivier Morel, David Fofi

April 14, 2011

Le2i - UMR CNRS 5158

IUT Le Creusot

Université de Bourgogne, France

Abdelrahman.Shabayek@members.em-a.eu, Cedric.Demonceaux@u-

bourgogne.fr, Olivier.Morel@u-bourgogne.fr, David.Fofi@u-bourgogne.fr

Abstract

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly replacing manned systems

in situations that are dangerous, remote, or difficult for manned aircraft to access.

Its control tasks are empowered by computer vision technology. Visual sensors are

robustly used for stabilization as primary or at least secondary sensors. Hence, UAV

stabilization by attitude estimation from visual sensors is a very active research area.

Vision based techniques are proving their effectiveness and robustness in handling

this problem. In this work a comprehensive review of UAV vision based attitude

estimation approaches is covered, starting from horizon based methods and passing

by vanishing points, optical flow, and stereoscopic based techniques. A novel seg-

mentation approach for UAV attitude estimation based on polarization is proposed.

Our future insightes for attitude estimation from uncalibrated catadioptric sensors

are also discussed.

1Introduction

In order to determine the pose of the vehicle accurately and rapidly, the regular approach

is to use inertial sensors with other sensors and applying sensor fusion. Some sensors

used for this purpose are the Global positioning sensor (GPS), inertial navigation sensor

(INS), as well as other sensors such as altitude sensors (ALS) and speedometers. These

sensorshavesomelimitations. GPSsensorforexample, isnotavailableatsomelocations

or readings subject to error. INS has the disadvantage of accumulation of errors. To

overcome these limitations, vision-based navigation approaches have been developed.

These approaches can be used where GPS or INS systems are not available or can be

used with other sensors to obtain better estimations. UAV attitude estimation has been

deeply studied in terms of data fusion of multiple low cost sensors in a Kalman filter

(KF) framework to have the vehicle full state of position and orientation. But in pure

vision based methods, if a horizontal world reference is visible (e.g horizon) the camera

attitude can be obtained.

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In order to control a flying vehicle at least six parameters (pose of the vehicle) should

be known; Euler angles representing the orientation of the vehicle and a vector of co-

ordinates, representing the position of the vehicle. Pose estimation basically depends

on viewing a world unchanging physical reference (e.g landmarks on the ground) for

accurate estimation. Our main concern in this work is to review the work that focuses

on attitude (roll, pitch, and yaw angles shown in figure (1)) estimation rather than pose

estimation.

Figure 1: An illustrative sketch of the attitude (roll, pitch, and yaw angles)

In a typical flight, the demand for yaw angle will be largely constant and hence dis-

turbances tend to have a relatively small effect on yaw. Further, small steady state errors

are normally acceptable since (unlike roll and pitch) any errors will have no further ef-

fect on the UAV motion. Therefor, for the sake of UAV stabilization, the most important

angles to be estimated are the pitch and roll angles as most of the work in literature

propose. In this work, the focus will be on attitude estimation from perspective and

omnidirectional cameras. It is intended to give a complete review with some views to

enhance current work and propose novel ideas under investigation and development by

our research group.

1.1 Vision sensors for attitude estimation

Vision based methods were first introduced by [1] . They proposed to equip a Micro Air

Vehicle (MAV) with a perspective camera to have a vision-guided flight stability and au-

tonomy system. Omnidirectional sensors for attitude estimation were first introduced by

[2]. The omnidirectional sensors (Fisheye and Catadioptric cameras shown in figure (2))

were used in different scenarios. Catadioptric sensors are commercially available for

reasonable prices. A catadioptric sensor has two main parts, the mirror and the lens. The

lens could be telecentric or perspective. The sensor is in general assembled as shown in

figure (2c).

Omnidirectional sensors were used alone or in stereo configurations. Omnidirec-

tional vision presents several advantages: a) a complete surrounding of the UAV can be

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captured and the horizon is totally visible, b) possible occlusions will have lower impact

on the estimation of the final results, c) whatever the attitude of the UAV, the horizon is

always present in the image, even partially, and the angles can always be computed, d) it

is also possible to compute the roll and pitch angles without any prior hypothesis, con-

trary to the applications using a perspective camera. Yet, catadioptric vision also presents

some drawbacks. For example,a) a catadioptric image contains significant deformations

due to the geometry of the mirror and to the sampling of the camera, b) catadioptric cam-

eras should be redesigned to a lower scale to be attached to a micro air vehicle (MAV).

(a) Perspective (b) Fisheye

(c) Catadioptric

Figure 2: Perspective and omnidirectional (Fisheye and Catadioptric) cameras

1.2The main techniques for attitude estimation

In literature, the first group of methods tries to detect a horizontal reference frame in the

world to estimate the up direction and hence the attitude of the vehicle. The horizon,

if visible, is the best natural horizontal reference to be used [1]. However, in urban

environments the horizon might not be visible. Hence, the second group tries to find the

vanishing points from parallel vertical and horizontal lines which are basic features of

man made structure (e.g [3]). The third group was biologically inspired from insects, it

employs the UAV motion (optical flow) for the sake of required estimation [4]. Stereo

vision based techniques came to the play to open the door for more accurate estimation

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specially if combined with optical flow (e.g [5]). All these techniques will be discussed

in the following sections.

Most of the employed techniques in literature use the Kalman filter (KF) or one of

its variations in order to obtain an accurate and reliable estimation specially if more than

one sensor is used and their measurements are fused. For a general parameter estima-

tion issue, the extended Kalman filter (EKF) technique is widely adopted. Due to the

processing of EKF in a linear manner, it may lead to sub-optimal estimation and even

filter divergence. Nevertheless, state estimation using EKF assumes that both state recur-

sion and covariance propagation are Gaussian. Unscented Kalman filter (UKF) resolves

the nonlinear parameter estimation and machine learning problems. It can outperform

the EKF especially for those highly nonlinear system dynamics/measurement processes.

None of the Jacobean or derivatives of any functions are taken under the UKF process-

ing [6]. For example in [7], using an EFK, the candidate horizon lines are propagated

and tracked through successive image frames, with statistically unlikely horizon can-

didates eliminated. In [8], they followed the EKF framework to combine inertial and

visual sensor for real time attitude estimation. They have designed a KF for image line

measurements.

1.3Paper organization

The paper will be organized as follows: sections (2, 3, 4), will review the general tech-

niques for attitude estimation from visual sensors (perspective and omnidirectional only)

in detail. In section (2), horizon detection algorithms will be briefly explained and re-

viewed. Vanishing points based techniques are reviewed in section (3). The classical

and hybrid approaches using stereo-vision and optical flow are reviewed in section (4).

Finally we conclude in (5).

2Horizon Detection

The visual sensor is not only a self-contained and passive like an INS but also interactive

with its environment. An absolute attitude can be provided by detecting a reliable world

reference frame. Attitude computation by vision is based on the detection of the hori-

zon, which appears as a line in perspective images or a curve in omnidirectional images

as shown in figure (3), and on the estimation of the angle between the horizon and a

horizontal reference.

Due to the difficulty in obtaining ground-truth for aircraft attitude, most of the work

in literature do not provide a quantitative measure of error in their estimates of roll and

pitch. In [9], they provided a complexity and performance comparison between their

method and other methods in litterature. They have included a comparison table of exe-

cution times for various published studies on visual attitude estimation.

In the following subsections, we will cover in detail the different segmentation ap-

proaches for horizon detection in section (2.1), a proposal to segment using polarization

in section (2.2), and both the perspective and omnidirectional scenarios will be reviewed.

Section (2.3) will briefly discuss horizon estimation and attitude computation in the per-

spective case. Section (2.4) will briefly discuss the same in the omnidirectional case

specially in the catadioptric scenario which is frequently used.

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(a) Perspective(b) Non-central catadioptric

Figure 3: Horizon in a) a perspective image, b) a non-central catadioptric image

2.1 Sky/Ground Segmentation

As the segmentation of sky and ground is a crucial step toward extracting the horizon

line/curve, which is used for attitude estimation, these segmentation methods will be

discussed here.

Usingperspectivevision, algorithmsemployingGaussianassumptionsforsky/ground

segmentation fails in scenarios where the underlying Gaussian assumption for the sky

and ground appearances is not appropriate [1]. These assumptions might be enhanced by

a statistical image modeling framework by building prior models of the sky and ground

then trained. Since the appearances of the sky and ground vary enormously, no single

feature is sufficient for accurate modeling; as such, these algorithms rely both on color

and texture as critical features. They may use hue and intensity for color representation,

and the complex wavelet transform for texture representation. Then they may use Hid-

den Markov Tree models as underlying statistical models over the feature space [10]. In

[7], the algorithm is based on detecting lines in an image which may correspond to the

horizon, followed by testing the optical flow against the measurements expected by the

motion filter.

Usingomnidirectionalvision, somealgorithmsusemarkovianformulationofsky/ground

segmentation based on color information [2], or the sky/ground partitioning is done in

the spherical image thanks to the optimization of the Mahalanobis distance between

these regions. The search for points in either regions takes place in the RGB space

[11]. In order to isolate the sky from the ground [12, 13], an approach based on the

method employed by [14] weights the RGB components of each pixel using the function

f (RGB) = 3B2/(R+G+B).

In [9], they propose an algorithm which can be incorporated into any vision system

(e.g. narrow angle, wide angle or panoramic), irrespective of the way in which the en-

vironment is imaged (e.g. through lenses or mirrors). The proposed horizon detection

method consists of four stages: a) enhancing sky/ground contrast, b) determining opti-

mum threshold for sky and ground segmentation, c) converting horizon points to vectors

in the view sphere, and d) fitting 3D plane to horizon vectors to estimate the attitude.

In [15] they proposed segmentation using temperature from thermopile sensors in the

thermal infrared band. However, in this work, the focus will be on attitude estimation

from perspective and omnidirectional sensors only.

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The previous segmentation solutions are either complex and/or time consuming. A

method based on polarization for segmentation in section (2.2) is proposed. We believe

it will have significant enhancements in both complexity and time due to its simplicity .

We propose a novel non-central catadioptric sensor where the mirror is a free-form shape

and the camera is polarimetric (e.g FD-1665P Polarization Camera [16]) to be used for

attitude estimation.

2.2 Polarization based segmentation

Instead of using color information or edge detection algorithms for segmentation which

may require different complex models and offline processing as shown, we propose to

use polarization information which exists in the surrounding nature. Polarization infor-

mation are directly computed from three intensity images taken at three different angles

of a linear polarization filter (0, 45, and 90 degrees) or at one shot using a polarimetric

camera.

Usingpolarizationforsegmentationisnotnew. Itwasusedforroughsurfacesegmen-

tation [17], material classification [18], water hazards detection for autonomous off-road

navigation [19] , and similar applications. However, to the best of our knowledge, it is

the first time to propose using polarization for sky/ground segmentation for UAV attitude

estimation.

The most important polarization information are phase (angle) and degree. Accord-

ing to [18], the phase of polarization is computed as follows:

q

=

0.5⇤tan?1(I0+I90?2I45

I90< I0

ifI45< I0

q

= q +90

else

q = q ?90

I90?I0

)+90(1)

if

and the degree of polarization is:

f =

I90?I0

(I90+I0)⇤cos(2q)

(2)

where I0, I45, andI90are intensity images taken at 0, 45, and 90 degrees of the rotating

polarizer respectively (or at one shot from a polarimetric camera).

Figure (4) shows the segmentation results for non-central catadioptric images with

the horizon detected by simply detecting the transition area. This technique is very sim-

ple and can be optimized by kind of binary search in the image having very rapid and

robust results for the detected horizon in the image. Only few regions of the image are

needed to be inspected for their degree or angle of polarization to decide for the search

direction. Unlike conventional segmentation methods, thanks to polarization, we do not

face the illumination problem caused by the sun being in the image.

In future work, we will provide detailed algorithms with complexity and run time

comparison with other methods found in literature.

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(a) 0 degree(b) 45 degree(c) 90 degree

(d) Segmentation based on the de-

gree of polarization

(e)Segmentationbasedontheangle

of polarization

(f) Extracted horizon curve

Figure 4: Sky/Ground segmentation and horizon extraction based on polarization from

non-central catadioptric images

2.3 Using perspective sensors

The horizon is projected as a line in the perspective image. Intuitively, it is required to

extract that line. Most methods first segment the image into sky/ground areas, then take

the separating points as the horizon line. The attitude is dependant on the gradient of

that horizon line on the image plane. In literature, the general approach is to find the

normal to the plane of the horizon in order to estimate the roll and pitch angles. The

normal vector has direct mathematical relation with the attitude as expressed in different

methods. The work done by [20, 21] are examples of successful autonomous control of

a MAV based on attitude estimation from the horizon detected.

Inliterature, horizondetectionproblemhasbeenaddressedbysegmentationandedge

detection. In [1, 22] they proposed to equip a MAV with a perspective camera to have a

vision-guidedflightstabilityandautonomysystem. Theydetectedthehorizonbyextract-

ing the straight line that separates the sky from the ground using the context difference of

the two regions. In [10] they treated the horizon detection problem as a subset of image

segmentation and object recognition, and used a percentage of the sky seen as an error

signal to a flight stability controller on a MAV. The resulting system was stable enough

to be safely flown by an untrained operator in real time. In contrast, [20] uses a direct

edge-detection technique, followed by automatic threshold and a Hough-like algorithm

to generate a “projection statistic”’ for the horizon. It claims a 99% success rate over

several hours of video. Importantly, it deals only with detection, not estimation of at-

titude. In [7] they propose an algorithm slightly similar to [20] in that it uses an edge

detection technique followed by a Hough transform. However, they propose different

image pre-filtering. In [23, 24, 25, 14] they use the centroids of sky and ground to ex-

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tract the horizon and derive the different angles. They try to simplify their work by using

a circular mask to reduce image asymmetry and to simplify the calculations.

2.4Using omnidirectional sensors

The use of a single perspective camera generates several drawbacks. Firstly, a partial

view of the environment and important occlusions in the horizon can have a serious

influence on the final result. Secondly, the horizon is visible only in a particular interval

of roll and pitch values. If the UAV gets out of this interval, the final image is exclusively

made of sky or earth and the horizon cannot be detected. Thirdly, it is only possible

to compute the roll angle while the pitch is only approximated thanks to a hypothesis

on the altitude of the UAV. All that pushed the need toward employing omnidirectional

sensors to capture the horizon in almost all scenarios. The horizon appears as a curve

in the omnidirectional image. It is common to use both fisheye and central catadioptric

sensors. As both are treated by the equivalence sphere theory proposed by [26]. The

particular geometric characteristics of the catadioptric sensor will be briefly explained in

the next section. Once the horizon is detected, these characteristics are used to compute

the attitude of the UAV.

2.4.1 Central catadioptric projection of the horizon

As demonstrated in [26], a 3D sphere projects on the equivalence sphere in a small circle,

and then on the catadioptric image plane in an ellipse (see figure (5)). Consequently, the

attitude computation is based on searching for an ellipse in the omnidirectional image or

asmallcircleontheequivalentspherewhichcorrespondstothehorizon. Thegeometrical

properties of the equivalent sphere allow to deduce the roll and pitch angles. Indeed, the

normal of the projected horizon on the sphere, which is also confounded with the line

passing through the center of the sphere of equivalence and through the center of the

earth represents in fact the attitude of the UAV depending on the position of the optical

axis. Then, the computation of the coordinates of the optical axis is sufficient in order to

deduce the roll and pitch angles.

2.4.2 Horizon estimation and attitude computation

To estimate the horizon, first the catadioptric image should be segmented to obtain

the sky and ground and hence the points belonging to the horizon. Next, the horizon

points should be back projected on the equivalence sphere. Finally, the best plane passes

through the horizon on that sphere should be estimated to deduce its normal which gives

the roll and pitch angles (e.g [2, 11]).

In [2], they proposed to use an omnidirectional visual sensor in order to compute the

attitude of a UAV. They have extended the work of [1, 22] to detect the curved horizon

line. They show an adaptation of the Markov Random Fields (MRFs) to treat the defor-

mations in the catadioptric images in order to detect the horizon and hence the catadiotric

geometric characteristics are used to compute the UAV attitude. This method gives in-

teresting results but do not use sufficiently the geometric characteristics of catadioptric

vision. Moreover, the segmentation step is time consuming and do not permit a real time

implementation. In [11], they present higher accuracy and computation time. They use

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Figure 5: The relation between the horizon projection and the roll and pitch angles.

(Adapted from [2]).

the geometric characteristics of the central catadioptric sensor for a formulation of the

process as an optimization problem which is solved on the sphere of equivalence in order

to compute directly the attitude angles. In [27], a hybrid method that is using the horizon

and the homography is proposed. In [12, 13], they propose a similar approach to [2] for

attitude estimation and a stereo-based system for height and motion estimation.

3Vanishing Points

In [11, 2], the horizon was determined with Random Markow Fields or RGB based Ma-

halanobis distance. This approach requires the conditions where the horizon is visible

(e.g low altitude in urban environments). In addition, it can not be used to estimate the

yaw angle. In urban environments, the world reference can be the parallel lines which

are a basic property of man-made structures. In this situations, vanishing points at the

intersection of parallel vertical and horizontal lines can be used for attitude estimation

(e.g [3]).

In [28], a batch process was developed to recover the history of camera orientations

from non-linear optimization (bundle adjustment) of the vanishing points. In [8], their

approach is based on vanishing points detection using raw line measurements directly

to refine the attitude. They do not require any line tracking. But they fuse these line

measurements with IMU gyro angle and compare each line segment with the current

best attitude estimate.

Vanishing points were more exploited with the omnidirectional sensors. In [3], they

use lines that are available in urban areas which avoids the limitations of horizon deter-

mination but it is still not possible to estimate the yaw angle, also it requires to determine

the sky. Therefore, their approach is not suitable in dense city environments as well as

closed areas. A more recent work proposes the use of vanishing points and infinite ho-

mography to estimate the helicopter attitude[29]. This approach can be used in urban

environments, however this method has never been applied to a real UAV. In [30], they

used the approach described in [29] to estimate helicopter attitude and improved it using

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a KF.

The research area in using vanishing points for attitude estimation is very active.

It provides the intuitive solution for the attitude estimation problem specially in urban

environments. Duetoitsimportance, thefollowingsubsectionswillexplaintheminmore

details using perspective and omnidirectional sensors. For a comprehensive evaluation

of several approaches for vanishing points detection, the reader is referred to [31, 32].

3.1Perspective

The perspective projection of parallel lines intersects at a single point on an image called

the vanishing point. In [33], given the camera calibration matrix, the geometric relation-

ship between the vanishing points, the horizon, and camera orientation has been well

established in a Gaussian sphere using 2D projective geometry . All vanishing point

can be considered in a Gaussian sphere representation even those at infinity. For more

details on representing vanishing points on a Gaussian sphere from a calibrated camera

(see figure (6)), the reader is referred to [33, 34, 8].

3.1.1 Gaussian sphere

Figure 6: Gaussian Sphere adapted from [34]

The Gaussian sphere is a unit sphere which shares the same optical center of the

pinhole camera. In the 2D projective space, an image line is represented as a normal

vector of a great circle in homogeneous coordinates. The intersection of two parallel

edges is a vanishing point which can be computed by the duality between the points and

lines in a projective plane i.evij= li⇥ljwhere vijis a vanishing point and li, and lj

are parallel lines. The vanishing point is the direction to the corresponding 3D point at

infinity.

In a calibrated camera, the vanishing points formed by vertical edges and those

formed by horizontal edges are geometrically constrained to:

vT

vertical.vi

horizontal= 0, i = 1,.....,n.

(3)

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Vanishing points that lie on the same plane define a vanishing line in an image. Then

the horizon is equal to the vanishing line that links any two horizontal vanishing points.

The horizon is dual to the vertical vanishing point. This can be geometrically explained

as having the horizon as the projection of the world ground plane, and the normal to the

ground plane is projected on the vertical vanishing point i.e:

horizon = vi

horizontal⇥ vj

horizontal

(4)

.

The UAV attitude can be determined when either the vertical vanishing point or at

least two horizontal vanishing points are recovered from the image given that a) the great

circle in the Gaussian sphere has the same orientation as the world ground plane, and b)

the relative camera pose with respect to an UAV is known. In general, it is assumed that

the camera is attached to the UAV where the camera’s principle axis is aligned along the

UAV centerline.

3.1.2Vertical vanishing points

In urban environments, vertical edges meet at a single vanishing point in the same direc-

tion as the gravity in the world coordinates. The vertical vanishing point is the perspec-

tive projection of the world z-axis with the camera pose matrix. Let vvertical= (vx,vy)T,

be the vertical vanishing point , then once it is found, the attitude can be immediately

computed by (see figure (7)):

roll = f = atan2(vx,vy), pitch = q = atan

1

pvx2+vy2.

(5)

The horizon line on the image is a line defined by the vertical vanishing point where:

(sinfcosq)x+(cosfcosq))y+sinq= 0.

(6)

3.1.3Horizontal vanishing points

In urban environments, horizontal edges which are orthogonal to the gravity direction

meet at vanishing points in the world ground plane (see figure (8)). One of the horizontal

vanishing points is the perspective projection of the world x-axis with the camera pose

matrix. Then the horizontal vanishing point is:

vhorizontal= [cosfsiny?sinfsinqcosy

cosqcosy

,?sinfsiny?cosfsinqcosy

cosqcosy

]T

(7)

where y is the yaw angle. All the horizontal vanishing points are along the horizon and

their locations are determined by the different yaw angles.

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Figure 7: Illustration of the relation between a vertical vanishing point and the roll and

pitch angles.

Figure 8: Horizontal vanishing points.

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3.2Catadioptric

As previously mentioned, Projection of 3D world points to the image plane can be done

in three steps. Firstly the point is projected to the equivalent sphere, then to the plane

at infinity and finally to the image plane. Besides, projection of 3D lines generates a

great circle on the equivalent sphere (see figure (5)). By back projecting every can-

didate edge on the sphere and checking each edge if it verifies the great circle con-

straint, one can decide which edges belong to real 3D lines. In order to do this, the

edges divided according to their gradient orientations and selected by their lengths are

back projected to the sphere. Then plane normal of the great circle is computed by

cross product of first and last edgel directions. In addition, parallel lines have the same

vanishing direction on the equivalent sphere. Therefore, dominant parallel lines can be

extracted by counting lines which satisfy some similarity threshold based on their van-

ishing direction. By excluding found parallel lines and repeating the same algorithm,

these dominant vanishing directions can be found. Based on an orthogonality threshold,

if |u1⇥u2| OrthogonalityThreshold, the cross product u3= u1⇥u2is computed to

determine the third vanishing direction, where uis are orthogonal parallel lines. If the

inequality is not satisfied, this means that the detection of orthogonal parallel lines is

failed; therefore attitude estimation at that frame should be skipped. In that case, it is

thought that the UAV does not change its orientation.

4 Stereo Vision And Optical Flow

(a) Stereo vision System(b) Phase-based estimation of the optical

flow field adapted from [35]

Figure 9: Stereo Vision and Optical Flow

4.1 Stereo vision

Computer stereo vision, is a part of computer vision where two cameras capture the same

scene but they are separated by a distance as shown in figure (9a). A computer compares

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the images while shifting the two images together over top of each other to find the parts

that match. The shifted amount is called the disparity.

In [36], the authors used a dual CCD stereo vision system in order to improve the

computation of the attitude by determining the complete pose of the UAV taking advan-

tages of UKF. However, this system relies on the capture of ground targets/landmarks in

both images which limits the environment in which the UAV can move. In [37], they pre-

sented a mixed stereoscopic vision system made of fish-eye and perspective cameras for

altitude estimation. Since there exists a homography between the two captured views,

where the sensor is calibrated and the attitude is estimated by the fish-eye camera us-

ing the techniques in [2, 3] , the algorithm searches for the altitude which verifies this

homography. It allows real time implementation. In [12, 13] , the conventional stereo

system was used for altitude computation. But for attitude computation, they also used a

similar approach to [2].

4.2Optical flow

Optical flow is the approximation of the motion field which can be computed from time-

varying image sequences (see figure (9b)). It provides many important visual cues [38].

It is possible to estimate the flight altitude from the observed optical flow in the down-

ward direction. Faster optic flow indicates a low flight altitude. Obstacles can be detected

intheforwarddirectionbydetectingexpansion, ordivergence, intheforwardvisualfield.

Optical Flow Estimation Methods are based on a) differential Techniques (dense mo-

tion field) where spatial and temporal variations of the image brightness at all pixels are

considered, b) phase methods where response of filters to energy signals are used, c)

matching techniques (sparse motion field) where the disparity of special image points

(features) between frames is estimated.

In [39, 40], they derived a form of the KF that uses the relationship between vision-

based measurements and the motion of the camera. The resulting implicit extended

Kalman filter (IEKF) can be used to recover the camera motion states. In [41], they

reused [39, 40] work in terms of an aircraft state-estimation problem by incorporating

aircraft dynamics into the IEKF framework. The resulting formulation partially esti-

mated the aircraft states but exhibited relatively slow convergence. Improvements have

been demonstrated by [42, 43] who also used an aircraft model. Unfortunately, accu-

rate MAV models are often not available within an aggressive flight regime where the

aerodynamics are difficult to characterize.

Several techniques have utilized the kinematic relationship between camera motion

and the resulting optical flow to directly solve for unknown motion parameters using

constrained optimization. In [44, 45, 46], these techniques depend on at least partial

knowledge of the translational velocity for use in the optimization. This knowledge

often depends on GPS measurements. In [47], they addressed the problem of estimating

aircraft states during a GPS-denied mission segment. An iterative optimization approach

is adopted to determine the angular rates and the wind-axis angles. No knowledge of

vehicle velocity is required. The coupled aircraft-camera kinematics are used to solve

for aircraft states in similar fashion to previous efforts; however, velocity dependencies

are removed through decoupling the optical flow resulting from angular and translational

motion, respectively. Angular rate estimates are obtained initially and used to setup a

simple linear least-squares problem for the aerodynamic angles. Performance of the

least-squares problem is further improved through the application of a weighting scheme

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derived from parallax measurements.

But Optical flow is inherently noisy, and obtaining dense and accurate optical flow

images is computationally expensive. Additionally, systems that rely on optical flow for

extracting range information need to discount the components of optical flow that are

induced by rotations of the aircraft, and use only those components that are generated

by the translational motion of the vehicle. This either requires an often noisy, numerical

estimate of the roll, pitch, and yaw rates of the aircraft, or additional apparatus for their

explicit measurement, such as a three-axis gyroscope. Furthermore, the range perceived

from a downward facing camera or optical flow sensor is only dependent upon altitude,

velocity, and the aircraft’s attitude [48].

Stereovisionprovidesanattractiveapproachtosolvesomeoftheproblemsofprovid-

ing guidance for autonomous aircraft operating in low-altitude or cluttered environments

[5, 48]. In [7], the optical flow of the image for each candidate horizon line is calculated,

and using these measurements from the perspective camera, they are able to estimate the

body rates of the aircraft. In [49], they estimate the heading of a small fixed pitch four

rotor helicopter. Heading estimates are computed using the optical flow technique of

phase correlation on images captured using a down facing camera. The camera is fitted

with an omnidirectional lens and the images are transformed into the log-polar domain

before the main computational step.

4.3Optical flow from stereo vision

In [5, 48, 50], they proposed a stereo vision system from two non-central catadioptric

cameras. The profile of the mirror is designed to ensure that equally spaced points on

the ground, on a line parallel to the camera’s optical axis, are imaged to points that

are equally spaced in the camera’s image plane. However, they have not used physical

mirrors, but instead used high resolution video cameras equipped with wide-angle fish-

eye lenses and simulated the imaging properties of the mirrors by means of software

lookup tables. Given the measured disparity surface from the optical flow, the attitude

(roll and pitch) and altitude can be estimated by iteratively fitting the modelled surface

to the measurements. They propose to enhance their method by estimating attitude and

altitude with respect to an assumed ground plane by reprojecting the disparity points into

3D coordinates. In [51], he presentes a technique for estimating the aerodynamic attitude

in the presence of dynamic obstacles. This technique relies on optical flow and stereo

vision to remove dynamic objects from the static background. The resulting flow field is

used for attitude computation from the calculated flow centroids.

5Conclusion

Any UAV may fly in low, middle, or high altitudes. We believe that the Omnidirec-

tional sensors should be always used because either the horizon will be always visible

(middle and high altitudes) or the vanishing points directions in low altitudes. If the

horizon is visible, then attitude should be estimated based on it. We proposed a simpler

method for segmentation and horizon detection based on polarization which can be used.

In urban environments, techniques based on vanishing points should be used. If obstacle

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