A Robust Localization System for Inspection Robots in Sewer Networks

Sensors (Basel). 2019 Nov 13;19(22):4946. doi: 10.3390/s19224946.


Sewers represent a very important infrastructure of cities whose state should be monitored periodically. However, the length of such infrastructure prevents sensor networks from being applicable. In this paper, we present a mobile platform (SIAR) designed to inspect the sewer network. It is capable of sensing gas concentrations and detecting failures in the network such as cracks and holes in the floor and walls or zones were the water is not flowing. These alarms should be precisely geo-localized to allow the operators performing the required correcting measures. To this end, this paper presents a robust localization system for global pose estimation on sewers. It makes use of prior information of the sewer network, including its topology, the different cross sections traversed and the position of some elements such as manholes. The system is based on a Monte Carlo Localization system that fuses wheel and RGB-D odometry for the prediction stage. The update step takes into account the sewer network topology for discarding wrong hypotheses. Additionally, the localization is further refined with novel updating steps proposed in this paper which are activated whenever a discrete element in the sewer network is detected or the relative orientation of the robot over the sewer gallery could be estimated. Each part of the system has been validated with real data obtained from the sewers of Barcelona. The whole system is able to obtain median localization errors in the order of one meter in all cases. Finally, the paper also includes comparisons with state-of-the-art Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) systems that demonstrate the convenience of the approach.

Keywords: GPS-denied; Monte Carlo Localization; field robotics; global pose estimation; localization; sewer network; underground robotics.