Outdoor Downward-facing Optical Flow Odometry with Commodity Sensors
Positioning is a key task in most field robotics applications but can be very challenging in GPS-denied or high-slip environments. A common tactic in such cases is to position visually, and we present a visual odometry implementation with the unusual reliance on optical mouse sensors to report vehicle velocity. Using multiple kilometers of data from a lunar rover prototype, we demonstrate that, in conjunction with a moderate-grade inertial measurement unit, such a sensor can provide an integrated pose stream that is at times more accurate than that achievable by wheel odometry and visibly more desirable for perception purposes than that provided by a high-end GPS-INS system. A discussion of the sensor’s limitations and several drift mitigating strategies attempted are presented.