Relocating Underwater Features Autonomously Using Sonar-Based SLAM

M.F. Fallon, J. Folkesson, H. McClelland, J.J. Leonard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper describes a system for reacquiring features of interest in a shallow-water ocean environment, using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with low-cost sonar and navigation sensors. In performing mine countermeasures, it is critical to enable AUVs to navigate accurately to previously mapped objects of interest in the water column or on the seabed, for further assessment or remediation. An important aspect of the overall system design is to keep the size and cost of the reacquisition vehicle as low as possible, as it may potentially be destroyed in the reacquisition mission. This low-cost requirement prevents the use of sophisticated AUV navigation sensors, such as a Doppler velocity log (DVL) or an inertial navigation system (INS). Our system instead uses the Proviewer 900-kHz imaging sonar from Blueview Technologies, which produces forward-looking sonar (FLS) images at ranges up to 40 mat approximately 4 Hz. In large volumes, it is hoped that this sensor can be manufactured at low cost. Our approach uses a novel simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) algorithm that detects and tracks features in the FLS images to renavigate to a previously mapped target. This feature-based navigation (FBN) system incorporates a number of recent advances in pose graph optimization algorithms for SLAM. The system has undergone extensive field testing over a period of more than four years, demonstrating the potential for the use of this new approach for feature reacquisition. In this report, we review the methodologies and components of the FBN system, describe the system's technological features, review the performance of the system in a series of extensive in-water field tests, and highlight issues for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)500-513
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • SLAM (robots)
  • autonomous underwater vehicles
  • feature extraction
  • graph theory
  • oceanographic techniques
  • optimisation
  • path planning
  • sensors
  • sonar
  • sonar detection
  • sonar imaging
  • sonar tracking
  • DVL
  • Doppler velocity log
  • FBN system
  • FLS images
  • INS
  • Proviewer imaging sonar
  • autonomous underwater feature relocation
  • extensive field testing
  • extensive in-water field tests
  • feature-based navigation system
  • forward-looking sonar
  • frequency 900 kHz
  • inertial navigation system
  • mine countermeasures
  • pose graph optimization algorithms
  • reacquisition vehicle
  • seabed
  • shallow-water ocean environment
  • simultaneous localization and mapping algorithm
  • sonar-based SLAM algorithm
  • sophisticated AUV navigation sensors
  • system design
  • water column
  • Feature extraction
  • Oceans
  • Simultaneous localization and mapping
  • Sonar
  • Sonar navigation
  • Vehicles
  • Marine navigation
  • marine vehicles
  • mobile robots
  • sensor fusion
  • simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM)
  • synthetic aperture sonar
  • underwater technology


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