Integrated vision-based attitude estimation

Dusha, Damien (2012) Integrated vision-based attitude estimation. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


For many years, computer vision has lured researchers with promises of a low-cost, passive, lightweight and information-rich sensor suitable for navigation purposes. The prime difficulty in vision-based navigation is that the navigation solution will continually drift with time unless external information is available, whether it be cues from the appearance of the scene, a map of features (whether built online or known a priori), or from an externally-referenced sensor.

It is not merely position that is of interest in the navigation problem. Attitude (i.e. the angular orientation of a body with respect to a reference frame) is integral to a visionbased navigation solution and is often of interest in its own right (e.g. flight control). This thesis examines vision-based attitude estimation in an aerospace environment, and two methods are proposed for constraining drift in the attitude solution; one through a novel integration of optical flow and the detection of the sky horizon, and the other through a loosely-coupled integration of Visual Odometry and GPS position measurements.

In the first method, roll angle, pitch angle and the three aircraft body rates are recovered though a novel method of tracking the horizon over time and integrating the horizonderived attitude information with optical flow. An image processing front-end is used to select several candidate lines in a image that may or may not correspond to the true horizon, and the optical flow is calculated for each candidate line. Using an Extended Kalman Filter (EKF), the previously estimated aircraft state is propagated using a motion model and a candidate horizon line is associated using a statistical test based on the optical flow measurements and location of the horizon in the image. Once associated, the selected horizon line, along with the associated optical flow, is used as a measurement to the EKF.

To evaluate the accuracy of the algorithm, two flights were conducted, one using a highly dynamic Uninhabited Airborne Vehicle (UAV) in clear flight conditions and the other in a human-piloted Cessna 172 in conditions where the horizon was partially obscured by terrain, haze and smoke. The UAV flight resulted in pitch and roll error standard deviations of 0.42° and 0.71° respectively when compared with a truth attitude source.

The Cessna 172 flight resulted in pitch and roll error standard deviations of 1.79° and 1.75° respectively.

In the second method for estimating attitude, a novel integrated GPS/Visual Odometry (GPS/VO) navigation filter is proposed, using a structure similar to a classic looselycoupled GPS/INS error-state navigation filter. Under such an arrangement, the error dynamics of the system are derived and a Kalman Filter is developed for estimating the errors in position and attitude. Through similar analysis to the GPS/INS problem, it is shown that the proposed filter is capable of recovering the complete attitude (i.e. pitch, roll and yaw) of the platform when subjected to acceleration not parallel to velocity for both the monocular and stereo variants of the filter. Furthermore, it is shown that under general straight line motion (e.g. constant velocity), only the component of attitude in the direction of motion is unobservable.

Numerical simulations are performed to demonstrate the observability properties of the GPS/VO filter in both the monocular and stereo camera configurations. Furthermore, the proposed filter is tested on imagery collected using a Cessna 172 to demonstrate the observability properties on real-world data.

The proposed GPS/VO filter does not require additional restrictions or assumptions such as platform-specific dynamics, map-matching, feature-tracking, visual loop-closing, gravity vector or additional sensors such as an IMU or magnetic compass. Since no platformspecific dynamics are required, the proposed filter is not limited to the aerospace domain and has the potential to be deployed in other platforms such as ground robots or mobile phones.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 51558
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Alvarez, Luis & Campbell, Duncan
Keywords: integrated vision-based attitude estimation, horizon-detection algorithm
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 11 Jul 2012 00:32
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2017 14:43

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