3D reconstruction and motion estimation using forward looking sonar
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Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are increasingly used in different domains including archaeology, oil and gas industry, coral reef monitoring, harbour’s security, and mine countermeasure missions. As electromagnetic signals do not penetrate underwater environment, GPS signals cannot be used for AUV navigation, and optical cameras have very short range underwater which limits their use in most underwater environments. Motion estimation for AUVs is a critical requirement for successful vehicle recovery and meaningful data collection. Classical inertial sensors, usually used for AUV motion estimation, suffer from large drift error. On the other hand, accurate inertial sensors are very expensive which limits their deployment to costly AUVs. Furthermore, acoustic positioning systems (APS) used for AUV navigation require costly installation and calibration. Moreover, they have poor performance in terms of the inferred resolution. Underwater 3D imaging is another challenge in AUV industry as 3D information is increasingly demanded to accomplish different AUV missions. Different systems have been proposed for underwater 3D imaging, such as planar-array sonar and T-configured 3D sonar. While the former features good resolution in general, it is very expensive and requires huge computational power, the later is cheaper implementation but requires long time for full 3D scan even in short ranges. In this thesis, we aim to tackle AUV motion estimation and underwater 3D imaging by proposing relatively affordable methodologies and study different parameters affecting their performance. We introduce a new motion estimation framework for AUVs which relies on the successive acoustic images to infer AUV ego-motion. Also, we propose an Acoustic Stereo Imaging (ASI) system for underwater 3D reconstruction based on forward looking sonars; the proposed system features cheaper implementation than planar array sonars and solves the delay problem in T configured 3D sonars.