Project

Autonomous Robots

Goal: Our research focuses in localization and mapping in dense urban environments, mapping of unstructured environments, computational offloading techniques, and hardware accelerators for ROS.

https://tiers.utu.fi/research/topics/autonomous

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Project log

Tomi Westerlund
added a research item
Vehicles with prolonged autonomous missions have to maintain environment awareness by simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). Closed loop correction is substituted by interpolation in rigid body transformation space in order to systematically reduce the accumulated error over different scales. The computation is divided to an edge computed lightweight SLAM and iterative corrections in the cloud environment. Tree locations in the forest environment are sent via a potentially limited communication bandwidths. Data from a real forest site is used in the verification of the proposed algorithm. The algorithm adds new iterative closest point (ICP) cases to the initial SLAM and measures the resulting map quality by the mean of the root mean squared error (RMSE) of individual tree clusters. Adding 4% more match cases yields the mean RMSE 0.15 m on a large site with 180 m odometric distance.
Tomi Westerlund
added a research item
Odometry during forest operations is demanding, involving limited field of vision (FOV), back-and-forth work cycle movements, and occasional close obstacles, which create problems for state-of-the-art systems. We propose a two-phase on-board process, where tree stem registration produces a sparse point cloud (PC) which is then used for simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM). A field test was carried out using a harvester with a laser scanner and a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) performing forest thinning over a 520 m strip route. Two SLAM methods are used: The proposed sparse SLAM (sSLAM) and a standard method, LeGO-LOAM (LLOAM). A generic SLAM post-processing method is presented, which improves the odometric accuracy with a small additional processing cost. The sSLAM method uses only tree stem centers, reducing the allocated memory to approximately 1% of the total PC size. Odometry and mapping comparisons between sSLAM and LLOAM are presented. Both methods show 85% agreement in registration within 15 m of the strip road and odometric accuracy of 0.5 m per 100 m. Accuracy is evaluated by comparing the harvester location derived through odometry to locations collected by a GNSS receiver mounted on the harvester.
Qingqing L.
added a research item
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been playing an increasingly active role in supporting search and rescue (SAR) operations in recent years. The benefits are multiple such as enhanced situational awareness, status assessment, or mapping of the operational area through aerial imagery. Most of these application scenarios require the UAVs to cover a certain area. If the objective is to detect people or other objects, or analyze in detail the area, then there is a trade-off between speed (higher altitude coverage) and perception accuracy (lower altitude). An optimal point in between requires active perception on-board the UAV to dynamically adjust the flight altitude and path planning. As an initial step towards active vision in UAV search in maritime SAR scenarios, in this paper we focus on analyzing how the flight altitude affects the accuracy of object detection algorithms. In particular, we quantify what are the probabilities for false negatives and false positives in human detection at different altitudes. Our results define the correlation between the altitude and the ability of UAVs to effectively detect people in the water.
Tomi Westerlund
added 12 research items
The development of a navigation system is one of the major challenges in building a fully autonomous platform. Full autonomy requires a dependable navigation capability not only in a perfect situation with clear GPS signals, but also in situations where the GPS is unreliable. Therefore, self-contained odometry systems have attracted much attention recently. This paper provides a general and comprehensive overview of the state-of-the-art in the field of self-contained, i,e, GPS denied, odometry systems and identifies the out-coming challenges that demand further research in future. Self-contained odometry methods are categorized into five main types, i.e., wheel, inertial, laser, radar, and visual where such categorization is based on the type of the sensor data being used for the odometry. Most of the research in the field is focused on analyzing the sensor data exhaustively or partially to extract the vehicle pose. Different combination and fusion of sensor data in a tightly/loosely coupled manner and with filtering or optimizing fusion method have been investigated. We analyze the advantages and weaknesses of each approach in terms of different evaluation metrics such as performance, response time, energy efficiency, and accuracy that can be a useful guideline for researchers and engineers in the field. In the end, some future research challenges in the field are discussed.
Deep reinforcement learning has recently seen huge success across multiple areas in the robotics domain. Owing to the limitations of gathering real-world data, i.e., sample inefficiency and the cost of collecting it, simulation environments are utilized for training the different agents. This not only aids in providing a potentially infinite data source, but also alleviates safety concerns with real robots. Nonetheless, the gap between the simulated and real worlds degrades the performance of the policies once the models are transferred into real robots. Multiple research efforts are therefore now being directed towards closing this sim-to-real gap and accomplish more efficient policy transfer. Recent years have seen the emergence of multiple methods applicable to different domains, but there is a lack, to the best of our knowledge, of a comprehensive review summarizing and putting into context the different methods. In this survey paper, we cover the fundamental background behind sim-to-real transfer in deep reinforcement learning and overview the main methods being utilized at the moment: domain randomization, domain adaptation, imitation learning, meta-learning and knowledge distillation. We categorize some of the most relevant recent works, and outline the main application scenarios. Finally, we discuss the main opportunities and challenges of the different approaches and point to the most promising directions.
Autonomous harvesting and transportation is a long-term goal of the forest industry. One of the main challenges is the accurate localization of both vehicles and trees in a forest. Forests are unstructured environments where it is difficult to find a group of significant landmarks for current fast feature-based place recognition algorithms. This paper proposes a novel approach where local point clouds are matched to a global tree map using the Delaunay triangularization as the representation format. Instead of point cloud based matching methods, we utilize a topology-based method. First, tree trunk positions are registered at a prior run done by a forest harvester. Second, the resulting map is Delaunay triangularized. Third, a local submap of the autonomous robot is registered, triangularized and matched using triangular similarity maximization to estimate the position of the robot. We test our method on a dataset accumulated from a forestry site at Lieksa, Finland. A total length of 200 m of harvester path was recorded by an industrial harvester with a 3D laser scanner and a geolocation unit fixed to the frame. Our experiments show a 12 cm s.t.d. in the location accuracy and with real-time data processing for speeds not exceeding 0.5 m/s. The accuracy and speed limit are realistic during forest operations.
Tomi Westerlund
added a project goal
Our research focuses in localization and mapping in dense urban environments, mapping of unstructured environments, computational offloading techniques, and hardware accelerators for ROS.