Online Multi-modal Learning and Adaptive Informative Trajectory Planning for Autonomous Exploration

Springer International Publishing
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Field and Service Robotics, 2018, pp. 239 - 254
Issue Date:
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FSR_2017_paper_28.pdfAccepted Manuscript version1.58 MB
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In robotic information gathering missions, scientists are typically interested in understanding variables which require proxy measurements from specialized sensor suites to estimate. However, energy and time constraints limit how often these sensors can be used in a mission. Robots are also equipped with cheaper to use navigation sensors such as cameras. In this paper, we explore a challenging planning problem in which a robot is required to learn about a scientific variable of interest in an initially unknown environment by planning informative paths and deciding when and where to use its sensors. To tackle this we present two innovations: a Bayesian generative model framework to automatically learn correlations between expensive science sensors and cheaper to use navigation sensors online, and a sampling based approach to plan for multiple sensors while handling long horizons and budget constraints. Our approach does not grow in complexity with data and is anytime making it highly applicable to field robotics. We tested our approach extensively in simulation and validated it with real data collected during the 2014 Mojave Volatiles Prospector Mission. Our planning algorithm performs statistically significantly better than myopic approaches and at least as well as a coverage-based algorithm in an initially unknown environment while having added advantages of being able to exploit prior knowledge and handle other intricacies of the real world without further algorithmic modifications.
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