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Three-dimensional Visual Mapping of Underwater Ship Hull Surface Using Piecewise-planar SLAM

Seonghun Hong and Jinwhan Kim*
International Journal of Control, Automation, and Systems, vol. 18, no. 3, pp.564-574, 2020

Abstract : In-water visual ship hull inspection using unmanned underwater vehicles needs to be performed at very close range to the target surface because of the visibility limitations in underwater environments mainly due to light attenuation, scattering, and water turbidity. These environmental challenges result in ineffective photometric and geometric information in hull surface images and, therefore, the performance of conventional three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction techniques is often unsatisfactory. This paper addresses a visual mapping method for 3D reconstruction of underwater ship hull surface using a monocular camera as a primary mapping sensor. The main idea of the proposed approach is to model the moderately curved hull surface as a combination of piecewise-planar panels, and to generate a global map by aligning the local images in a two-dimensional reference frame and correcting them appropriately to reflect the information of perspective projections of the 3D panels. The estimated 3D panels associated with the local images are used to extract the loop-closure relative measurements in the framework of simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) for precise camera trajectory estimation and 3D reconstruction results. The validity and practical feasibility of the proposed method are demonstrated using a dataset obtained in a field experiment with a full-scale ship in a real sea environment.

Keyword : 3D reconstruction, autonomous underwater vehicle, computer vision, visual inspection, visual mapping.

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