ARTOR: Rough Terrain Navigation

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This project aims at the development of techniques for reliable autonomous navigation of a wheeled robot in rough, outdoor terrain. The robot must be able to navigate and localize itself in unknown, challenging environments without using global position sensors (such as GPS). Leaving flat and well-structured environments, such as streets or office rooms, comes along with a series of challenges for navigation. The terrain not only becomes three-dimensional, but also exhibits various different surfaces (vegetation, gravel, sand, rocks, etc.).

For reliable autonomous navigation in such terrain, the robot must first localize itself in six dimensions and build a three-dimensional map of the environment, based on sensor data. Furthermore, the traversability of individual parts of the surroundings has to be determined, in order to be able to plan a safe path leading the robot towards the desired location. Computation of this path is not only based on the need to avoid obstacles, but also on the shape (steepness) and traversability of different parts of the terrain.

The main parts of this project are:

  • Development of motion planning techniques enabling the computation of safe robot paths in three-dimensional, rough terrain.
  • Development of localization and mapping algorithms for real-time 6D localization, 3D mapping and terrain characterization in rough, outdoor environments, based on stereo camera images and 3D laser measurements.
  • Setup of a robotic vehicle (ARTOR), equipped with cameras, laser range finders and inertial sensors, for testing, evaluating and demonstrating the capabilities of the developed navigation algorithms.

This project is a collaboration between ETH Zürich, RUAG and armasuisse.

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