, Volume 54, Issue 1-3, pp 137-161
Date: 27 Jul 2008

Vision-Based Odometry and SLAM for Medium and High Altitude Flying UAVs

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This paper proposes vision-based techniques for localizing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by means of an on-board camera. Only natural landmarks provided by a feature tracking algorithm will be considered, without the help of visual beacons or landmarks with known positions. First, it is described a monocular visual odometer which could be used as a backup system when the accuracy of GPS is reduced to critical levels. Homography-based techniques are used to compute the UAV relative translation and rotation by means of the images gathered by an onboard camera. The analysis of the problem takes into account the stochastic nature of the estimation and practical implementation issues. The visual odometer is then integrated into a simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) scheme in order to reduce the impact of cumulative errors in odometry-based position estimation approaches. Novel prediction and landmark initialization for SLAM in UAVs are presented. The paper is supported by an extensive experimental work where the proposed algorithms have been tested and validated using real UAVs.

This work is partially supported by the AWARE project (IST-2006-33579) funded by the European Commission, and the AEROSENS project (DPI-2005-02293) funded by the Spanish Government.