Micro air vehicles have recently gained popularity due to their potential as autonomous systems. Their future impact, however, will depend in part on how well they can navigate in GPS-denied and GPS-degraded environments. In response to this need, this dissertation investigates a potential solution for GPS-denied operations called relative navigation. The method utilizes keyframe-to-keyframe odometry estimates and their covariances in a global back end that represents the global state as a pose graph. The back end is able to effectively represent nonlinear uncertainties and incorporate opportunistic global constraints. The GPS-denied research community has, for the most part, neglected to consider fixed-wing aircraft. This dissertation enables fixed-wing aircraft to utilize relative navigation by accounting for their sensing requirements. The development of an odometry-like, front-end, EKF-based estimator that utilizes only a monocular camera and an inertial measurement unit is presented. The filter uses the measurement model of the multi-state-constraint Kalman filter and regularly performs relative resets in coordination with keyframe declarations. In addition to the front-end development, a method is provided to account for front-end velocity bias in the back-end optimization. Finally a method is presented for enabling multiple vehicles to improve navigational accuracy by cooperatively sharing information. Modifications to the relative navigation architecture are presented that enable decentralized, cooperative operations amidst temporary communication dropouts. The proposed framework also includes the ability to incorporate inter-vehicle measurements and utilizes a new concept called the coordinated reset, which is necessary for optimizing the cooperative odometry and improving localization. Each contribution is demonstrated through simulation and/or hardware flight testing. Simulation and Monte-Carlo testing is used to show the expected quality of the results. Hardware flight-test results show the front-end estimator performance, several back-end optimization examples, and cooperative GPS-denied operations.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





GPS degradation, GPS denied, navigation, state estimation, observability, extended Kalman filter, sensor fusion, vision-aided INS, consistency, multirotor, fixed wing, micro air vehicle, indoor flight, outdoor flight, simultaneous localization and mapping, place recognition, loop closure, pose graph optimization, visual odometry, cooperative estimation



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Engineering Commons