Autonomous UAV-UGV robot collaboration for exploration and mapping of unknown environments

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This thesis addresses the limitations of existing approaches to autonomous exploration and mapping of unknown environments that use multiple Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs). An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is introduced into the multirobot system to overcome the challenges of relative localization and obstacle detection. A novel method is proposed for autonomously determining the UGVs’ starting poses using ArUco markers visible to the UAV, resulting in the initialization of a global merged map. A second method is developed to overcome UGV obstacle detection limitations. UAV depth camera data is processed to detect and incorporate previously unseen obstacles into the UGVs’ navigation schemes, enabling avoidance. Experimental validation demonstrates the effectiveness of both methods in enhancing system autonomy. The integration of a UAV into multi-robot systems presents a promising solution to address UGVs’ localization challenges and limited field of view to improve their functionality in hazardous environments.