Data-driven Loop Closure Detection in Bathymetric Point Clouds for Underwater SLAM

Jiarui Tan, Ignacio Torroba, Yiping Xie, John Folkesson

Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) frameworks for autonomous navigation rely on robust data association to identify loop closures for back-end trajectory optimization. In the case of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with multibeam echosounders (MBES), data association is particularly challenging due to the scarcity of identifiable landmarks in the seabed, the large drift in dead-reckoning navigation estimates to which AUVs are prone and the low resolution characteristic of MBES data. Deep learning solutions to loop closure detection have shown excellent performance on data from more structured environments. However, their transfer to the seabed domain is not immediate and efforts to port them are hindered by the lack of bathymetric datasets. Thus, in this paper we propose a neural network architecture aimed to showcase the potential of adapting such techniques to correspondence matching in bathymetric data. We train our framework on real bathymetry from an AUV mission and evaluate its performance on the tasks of loop closure detection and coarse point cloud alignment. Finally, we show its potential against a more traditional method and release both its implementation and the dataset used.

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