Coverage Path Planning with Real-time Replanning and Surface Reconstruction for Inspection of Three-dimensional Underwater Structures using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

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We present a novel method for planning coverage paths for inspecting complex structures on the ocean floor using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). Our method initially uses a 2.5-dimensional (2.5D) prior bathymetric map to plan a nominal coverage path that allows the AUV to pass its sensors over all points on the target area. The nominal path uses a standard mowing-the-lawn pattern in effectively planar regions, while in regions with substantial 3D relief it follows horizontal contours of the terrain at a given offset distance. We then go beyond previous approaches in the literature by considering the vehicle's state uncertainty rather than relying on the unrealistic assumption of an idealized path execution. Toward that end, we present a replanning algorithm based on a stochastic trajectory optimization that reshapes the nominal path to cope with the actual target structure perceived in situ. The replanning algorithm runs onboard the AUV in real time during the inspection mission, adapting the path according to the measurements provided by the vehicle's range-sensing sonars. Furthermore, we propose a pipeline of state-of-the-art surface reconstruction techniques we apply to the data acquired by the AUV to obtain 3D models of the inspected structures that show the benefits of our planning method for 3D mapping. We demonstrate the efficacy of our method in experiments at sea using the GIRONA 500 AUV, where we cover part of a breakwater structure in a harbor and an underwater boulder rising from 40 m up to 27 m depth ​
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