Tracking motion in mineshafts : Using monocular visual odometry
Abstract: LKAB has a mineshaft trolley used for scanning mineshafts. It is suspended down into a mineshaft by wire, scanning the mineshaft on both descent and ascent using two LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) sensors and an IMU (Internal Measurement Unit) used for tracking the position. With good tracking, one could use the LiDAR scans to create a three-dimensional model of the mineshaft which could be used for monitoring, planning and visualization in the future. Tracking with IMU is very unstable since most IMUs are susceptible to disturbances and will drift over time; we strive to track the movement using monocular visual odometry instead. Visual odometry is used to track movement based on video or images. It is the process of retrieving the pose of a camera by analyzing a sequence of images from one or multiple cameras. The mineshaft trolley is also equipped with one camera which is filming the descent and ascent and we aim to use this video for tracking. We present a simple algorithm for visual odometry and test its tracking on multiple datasets being: KITTI datasets of traffic scenes accompanied by their ground truth trajectories, mineshaft data intended for the mineshaft trolley operator and self-captured data accompanied by an approximate ground truth trajectory. The algorithm is feature based, meaning that it is focused on tracking recognizable keypoints in sequent images. We compare the performance of our algortihm by tracking the different datasets using two different feature detection and description systems, ORB and SIFT. We find that our algorithm performs well on tracking the movement of the KITTI datasets using both ORB and SIFT whose largest total errors of estimated trajectories are $3.1$ m and $0.7$ m for ORB and SIFT respectively in $51.8$ m moved. This was compared to their ground truth trajectories. The tracking of the self-captured dataset shows by visual inspection that the algorithm can perform well on data which has not been as carefully captured as the KITTI datasets. We do however find that we cannot track the movement with the current data from the mineshaft. This is due to the algorithm finding too few matching features in sequent images, breaking the pose estimation of the visual odometry. We make a comparison of how ORB and SIFT finds features in the mineshaft images and find that SIFT performs better by finding more features. The mineshaft data was never intended for visual odometry and therefore it is not suitable for this purpose either. We argue that the tracking could work in the mineshaft if the visual conditions are made better by focusing on more even lighting and camera placement or if it can be combined with other sensors such as an IMU, that assist the visual odometry when it fails.
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