University of Limerick
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Real-time vision systems for underwater robotics: towards the automation of underwater inspection and intervention operations

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posted on 2022-12-16, 15:15 authored by Matija Rossi
This thesis describes a body of research work in the domain of underwater robotics, aimed towards improving performance and efficiency; and achieving partial or full autonomy in a wide range of inspection and intervention tasks. The emphasis is on the development and application of real-time vision systems, utilising underwater cameras for mapping, navigation, and manipulation. Real-time analysis of survey data, which is typically post-processed, can significantly improve the quality and time of inspection operations. If vision systems prove sufficiently robust, they may obviate the need for inertial navigation systems and replace them with image-based target referenced navigation. Additionally, in order for an intervention task to be carried out autonomously, it is necessary to know the structure of the scene around the target and the position of the robot relative to it. This makes it possible to then implement higher level features such as path planning, obstacle avoidance, and target identification. Even in the case of manual operations, providing an augmented feedback could increase the ROV pilot’s efficiency multiple times compared to a standard 2D camera stream, which is what is currently being used for teleoperation. Due to offshore operations being particularly expensive, time consuming, and limited by other factors such as weather, making them more efficient is of great value. The work presented in this thesis consists of three systems that aim to bring underwater robotics closer to achieving these and many other new opportunities. The first is a real-time 2D image mosaicking tool developed to provide instantaneous feedback on image quality and area coverage during underwater site inspection or documentation surveys. The algorithm implements a feature extraction and matching approach to stitching video frames into a single image. While its main advantage is providing good results for fast documentation in real-time even on low-end computer hardware, it has also the possibility to provide camera motion estimation and therefore be used as a navigation system or aid. The second is underwater StereoFusion, an algorithm for real-time 3D dense reconstruction and camera tracking. Unlike KinectFusion on which it is based, StereoFusion relies on a stereo camera as its main sensor. The algorithm uses the depth map obtained from the stereo camera to incrementally build a volumetric 3D model of the environment, while simultaneously using the model for camera tracking. It has been successfully tested both in a lake and in the ocean, using two different state-of-the-art underwater ROVs. A monocular camera solution for dense reconstruction is also investigated and reported.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Toal, Daniel

Second supervisor

Dooly, Gerard



Other Funding information




Department or School

  • Electronic & Computer Engineering

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