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Row‐sensing templates: A generic 3D sensor‐based approach to robot localization with respect to orchard row centerlines

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Accurate robot localization relative to orchard row centerlines is essential for autonomous guidance where satellite signals are often obstructed by foliage. Existing sensor-based approaches rely on various features extracted from images and point clouds. However, any selected features are not available consistently, because the visual and geometrical characteristics of orchard rows change drastically when tree types, growth stages, canopy management practices, seasons, and weather conditions change. In this study, we introduce a novel localization method that does not rely on features; instead, it relies on the concept of a row-sensing template, which is the expected observation of a 3D sensor traveling in an orchard row, when the sensor is anywhere on the centerline and perfectly aligned with it. First, the template is built using a few measurements, provided that the sensor's true pose with respect to the centerline is available. Then, during navigation, the best pose estimate (and its confidence) is estimated by maximizing the match between the template and the sensed point cloud using particle-filtering. The method can adapt to various orchards and conditions by rebuilding the template. Experiments were performed in a vineyard, and in an orchard in different seasons. Results showed that the lateral mean absolute error (MAE) was less than 3.6% of the row width, and the heading MAE was less than 1.72°. Localization was robust, as errors did not increase when less than 75% of measurement points were missing. The results indicate that template-based localization can provide a generic approach for accurate and robust localization in real-world orchards.

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