Volume 22 Issue 7/8 - Publication Date: 1 July - August 2003
Special Issue on the 3rd International Conference on Field and Service Robotics
Path Planning for Robotic Demining: Robust Sensor-Based Coverage of Unstructured Environments and Probabilistic Methods
E. U. Acar, H. Choset, Y. Zhang, and M. Schervish Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 USA

Demining and unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance are extremely tedious and dangerous tasks. The use of robots bypasses the hazards and potentially increases the efficiency of both tasks. A first crucial step towards robotic mine/UXO clearance is to locate all the targets. This requires a path planner that generates a path to pass a detector over all points of a mine/UXO field, i.e., a planner that is complete. The current state of the art in path planning for mine/UXO clearance is to move a robot randomly or use simple heuristics. These methods do not possess completeness guarantees which are vital for locating all of the mines/UXOs. Using such random approaches is akin to intentionally using imperfect detectors. In this paper, we first overview our prior complete coverage algorithm and compare it with randomized approaches. In addition to the provable guarantees, we demonstrate that complete coverage achieves coverage in shorter time than random coverage. We also show that the use of complete approaches enables the creation of a filter to reject bad sensor readings, which is necessary for successful deployment of robots. We propose a new approach to handle sensor uncertainty that uses geometrical and topological features rather than sensor uncertainty models. We have verified our results by performing experiments in unstructured indoor environments. Finally, for scenarios where some a priori information about a minefield is available, we expedite the demining process by introducing a probabilistic method so that a demining robot does not have to perform exhaustive coverage.

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