Field testing of visual odometry aided by a sun sensor and inclinometer



In this paper, we present a novel approach to planetary rover localization that incorporates sun sensor and inclinometer data directly into a stereo visual odometry pipeline. Utilizing the absolute orientation information provided by the sun sensor and inclinometer significantly reduces the error growth of the visual odometry path estimate. The measurements have very low computation, power, and mass requirements, providing localization improvement at nearly negligible cost. We describe the mathematical formulation of error terms for the stereo camera, sun sensor, and inclinometer measurements, as well as the bundle adjustment framework for determining the maximum likelihood vehicle transformation. Extensive results are presented from experimental trials utilizing data collected during a 10-km traversal of a Mars analogue site on Devon Island in the Canadian high Arctic. We also illustrate how our approach can be used to reduce the computational burden of visual odometry for planetary exploration missions. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.