Vision-based autonomous mapping and exploration using a quadrotor MAV

Friedrich Fraundorfer*, Lionel Heng, Dominik Honegger, Gim Hee Lee, Lorenz Meier, Petri Tanskanen, Marc Pollefeys

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review


In this paper, we describe our autonomous vision-based quadrotor MAV system which maps and explores unknown environments. All algorithms necessary for autonomous mapping and exploration run on-board the MAV. Using a front-looking stereo camera as the main exteroceptive sensor, our quadrotor achieves these capabilities with both the Vector Field Histogram+ (VFH+) algorithm for local navigation, and the frontier-based exploration algorithm. In addition, we implement the Bug algorithm for autonomous wall-following which could optionally be selected as the substitute exploration algorithm in sparse environments where the frontier-based exploration under-performs. We incrementally build a 3D global occupancy map on-board the MAV. The map is used by the VFH+ and frontier-based exploration in dense environments, and the Bug algorithm for wall-following in sparse environments. During the exploration phase, images from the front-looking camera are transmitted over Wi-Fi to the ground station. These images are input to a large-scale visual SLAM process running off-board on the ground station. SLAM is carried out with pose-graph optimization and loop closure detection using a vocabulary tree. We improve the robustness of the pose estimation by fusing optical flow and visual odometry. Optical flow data is provided by a customized downward-looking camera integrated with a microcontroller while visual odometry measurements are derived from the front-looking stereo camera. We verify our approaches with experimental results.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2012 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IROS 2012
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Event25th IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Robotics and Intelligent Systems: IROS 2012 - Vilamoura, Algarve, Portugal
Duration: 7 Oct 201212 Oct 2012


Conference25th IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Robotics and Intelligent Systems
CityVilamoura, Algarve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Software
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Science Applications


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