ROS In Three Dimensions: Navigation and Planning Will Be Hard

A project log for Sawppy the Rover

Motorized model of Mars rovers Curiosity, Mars 2020 For Under $500

RogerRoger 01/16/2019 at 22:280 Comments

At this point my research has led me to ROS modules RTAB-Map which will create a three dimensional representation of a robot's environment. It seems very promising... but building such a representation is only half the battle. How would a robot make good use of this data? My research has not yet uncovered applicable solutions.

The easy thing to do is to fall back to two dimensions, which will allow the use of standard ROS navigation stack. The RTAB-Map ROS module appears to make the super easy, with the option to output a two dimension occupancy grid just like what navigation wants. It is a baseline for handling indoor environments, navigating from room to room and such.

But where's the fun in that? I could already do that with a strictly two-dimensional Phoebe. Sawppy is a six wheel rover for handling rougher terrain and it would be far preferable to make Sawppy autonomous with ROS modules that can understand and navigate outdoor environments. But doing so successfully will require solving a lot of related problems that I don't have answers yet.

We can see a few challenges in the picture of Sawppy in a back yard environment:

So many interesting problems, so little time!

(Cross-posted to