A vision based system for underwater docking

by   Shuang Liu, et al.
Tohoku University

Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) have been deployed for underwater exploration. However, its potential is confined by its limited on-board battery energy and data storage capacity. This problem has been addressed using docking systems by underwater recharging and data transfer for AUVs. In this work, we propose a vision based framework for underwater docking following these systems. The proposed framework comprises two modules; (i) a detection module which provides location information on underwater docking stations in 2D images captured by an on-board camera, and (ii) a pose estimation module which recovers the relative 3D position and orientation between docking stations and AUVs from the 2D images. For robust and credible detection of docking stations, we propose a convolutional neural network called Docking Neural Network (DoNN). For accurate pose estimation, a perspective-n-point algorithm is integrated into our framework. In order to examine our framework in underwater docking tasks, we collected a dataset of 2D images, named Underwater Docking Images Dataset (UDID), in an experimental water pool. To the best of our knowledge, UDID is the first publicly available underwater docking dataset. In the experiments, we first evaluate performance of the proposed detection module on UDID and its deformed variations. Next, we assess the accuracy of the pose estimation module by ground experiments, since it is not feasible to obtain true relative position and orientation between docking stations and AUVs under water. Then, we examine the pose estimation module by underwater experiments in our experimental water pool. Experimental results show that the proposed framework can be used to detect docking stations and estimate their relative pose efficiently and successfully, compared to the state-of-the-art baseline systems.


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