Towards Mapping of Rock Walls Using a UAV-Mounted 2D Laser Scanner in GPS Denied Environments
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In geotechnical engineering, the stability of rock excavations and walls is estimated by using tools that include a map of the orientations of exposed rock faces. However, measuring these orientations by using conventional methods can be time consuming, sometimes dangerous, and is limited to regions of the exposed rock that are reachable by a human. This thesis introduces a 2D, simulated, quadcopter-based rock wall mapping algorithm for GPS denied environments such as underground mines or near high walls on surface. The proposed algorithm employs techniques from the field of robotics known as simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) and is a step towards 3D rock wall mapping. Not only are quadcopters agile, but they can hover. This is very useful for confined spaces such as underground or near rock walls. The quadcopter requires sensors to enable self localization and mapping in dark, confined and GPS denied environments. However, these sensors are limited by the quadcopter payload and power restrictions. Because of these restrictions, a light weight 2D laser scanner is proposed. As a first step towards a 3D mapping algorithm, this thesis proposes a simplified scenario in which a simulated 1D laser range finder and 2D IMU are mounted on a quadcopter that is moving on a plane. Because the 1D laser does not provide enough information to map the 2D world from a single measurement, many measurements are combined over the trajectory of the quadcopter. Least Squares Optimization (LSO) is used to optimize the estimated trajectory and rock face for all data collected over the length of a light. Simulation results show that the mapping algorithm developed is a good first step. It shows that by combining measurements over a trajectory, the scanned rock face can be estimated using a lower-dimensional range sensor. A swathing manoeuvre is introduced as a way to promote loop closures within a short time period, thus reducing accumulated error. Some suggestions on how to improve the algorithm are also provided.