A robust docking strategy for a mobile robot using flow field divergence
We present a robust strategy for docking a mobile robot in close proximity with an upright surface using optical flow field divergence and proportional feedback control. Unlike previous approaches, we achieve this without the need for explicit segmentation of features in the image, and using complete gradient-based optical flow estimation (i.e. no affine models) in the optical flow computation. A key contribution is the development of an algorithm to compute the flow field divergence, or time-to-contact, in a manner that is robust to small rotations of the robot during ego-motion. This is done by tracking the focus of expansion of the flow-field and using this to compensate for ego rotation of the image. The control law used is a simple proportional feedback, using the unfiltered flow field divergence as an input, for a dynamic vehicle model. Closed-loop stability analysis of docking under the proposed feedback is provided. Performance of the flow field divergence algorithm is demonstrated using off-board natural image sequences, and the performance of the closed-loop system is experimentally demonstrated by control of a mobile robot approaching a wall.
Keywords: Image motion analysis, optical flow, time-to-contact, focus of expansion, robot vision systems.