Global Pose Estimation from Aerial Images : Registration with Elevation Models

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: Over the last decade, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has increased drastically. Originally, the use of these aircraft was mainly military, but today many civil applications have emerged. UAVs are frequently the preferred choice for surveillance missions in disaster areas, after earthquakes or hurricanes, and in hazardous environments, e.g. for detection of nuclear radiation. The UAVs employed in these missions are often relatively small in size which implies payload restrictions.For navigation of the UAVs, continuous global pose (position and attitude) estimation is mandatory. Cameras can be fabricated both small in size and light in weight. This makes vision-based methods well suited for pose estimation onboard these vehicles. It is obvious that no single method can be used for pose estimation in all dierent phases throughout a ight. The image content will be very dierent on the runway, during ascent, during  ight at low or high altitude, above urban or rural areas, etc. In total, a multitude of pose estimation methods is required to handle all these situations. Over the years, a large number of vision-based pose estimation methods for aerial images have been developed. But there are still open research areas within this eld, e.g. the use of omnidirectional images for pose estimation is relatively unexplored.The contributions of this thesis are three vision-based methods for global egopositioning and/or attitude estimation from aerial images. The rst method for full 6DoF (degrees of freedom) pose estimation is based on registration of local height information with a geo-referenced 3D model. A dense local height map is computed using motion stereo. A pose estimate from navigation sensors is used as an initialization. The global pose is inferred from the 3D similarity transform between the local height map and the 3D model. Aligning height information is assumed to be more robust to season variations than feature matching in a single-view based approach.The second contribution is a method for attitude (pitch and roll angle) estimation via horizon detection. It is one of only a few methods in the literature that use an omnidirectional (sheye) camera for horizon detection in aerial images. The method is based on edge detection and a probabilistic Hough voting scheme. In a  ight scenario, there is often some knowledge on the probability density for the altitude and the attitude angles. The proposed method allows this prior information to be used to make the attitude estimation more robust.The third contribution is a further development of method two. It is the very rst method presented where the attitude estimates from the detected horizon in omnidirectional images is rened through registration with the geometrically expected horizon from a digital elevation model. It is one of few methods where the ray refraction in the atmosphere is taken into account, which contributes to the highly accurate pose estimates. The attitude errors obtained are about one order of magnitude smaller than for any previous vision-based method for attitude estimation from horizon detection in aerial images.