In this dissertation we present advances in developing an autonomous air vehicle capable of navigating through unknown, indoor environments. The problem imposes stringent limits on the computational power available onboard the vehicle, but the environment necessitates using 3D sensors such as stereo or RGB-D cameras whose data requires significant processing. We address the problem by proposing and developing key elements of a relative navigation scheme that moves as many processing tasks as possible out of the time-critical functions needed to maintain flight. We present in Chapter 2 analysis and results for an improved multirotor helicopter state estimator. The filter generates more accurate estimates by using an improved dynamic model for the vehicle and by properly accounting for the correlations that exist in the uncertainty during state propagation. As a result, the filter can rely more heavily on frequent and easy to process measurements from gyroscopes and accelerometers, making it more robust to error in the processing intensive information received from the exteroceptive sensors. In Chapter 3 we present BERT, a novel approach to map optimization. The goal of map optimization is to produce an accurate global map of the environment by refining the relative pose transformation estimates generated by the real-time navigation system. We develop BERT to jointly optimize the global poses and relative transformations. BERT exploits properties of independence and conditional independence to allow new information to efficiently flow through the network of transformations. We show that BERT achieves the same final solution as a leading iterative optimization algorithm. However, BERT delivers noticeably better intermediate results for the relative transformation estimates. The improved intermediate results, along with more readily available covariance estimates, make BERT especially applicable to our problem where computational resources are limited. We conclude in Chapter 4 with analysis and results that extend BERT beyond the simple example of Chapter 3. We identify important structure in the network of transformations and address challenges arising in more general map optimization problems. We demonstrate results from several variations of the algorithm and conclude the dissertation with a roadmap for future work.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





simultaneous localization and mapping, SLAM, quadrotor, indoor flight, GPS denied flight, navigation, state estimation, observability, back-end optimization, BERT