LIDAR Mapping

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Okay, so success has smiled upon me (for once)! After many, many, many, many, trials I finally got the LIDAR to map in a real time slam visualisation (I will upload a video example asap). ROS works using a subset of “nodes” for each application, sensor input, etc. So in order to get the slam vis running you have to have the main the LIDAR input stream node running, the slam node running, and then tell them all where to dump their data before finally launching the ros visualisation and hoping that it all works together. Rather than starting them all one by one manually I made a launch file (variation of a bash script) that does everything in the background. I’ve also created a git on the gitlab with some simple instructions, work space and launch files that I’ll update and add more to as time goes on.

Now that the mapping is up I can work on getting things calibrated. The LIDARneeds to be able to map when held sideways and scanning the ground rather than in a single 360º plane. The plan is to take advantage of its positioning. When the LIDAR is not perpendicular to the ground it will simply shut off the laser and not record data points, this way our final “scan” will only be those taken within a tighter angle boundary. Once this is working Ill be trying the LIDAR scanning at 3m (10ft) and see how accurately it picks small objects up. This will translate into how slow the drone has to fly to achieve maximum map resolution.

The other week when I was forced to take the LIDAR unit apart I was able to examine the internal design. The end goal with the LIDAR is to be able to sweep a flat ground surface, this means that we will have to limit the beam to ~30º beam angle. The simplest way to do this will by a custom top housing. The inside part of the top housing will spin freely on its own while the outer part of the top housing will be fixed with a limited view “window.” It will have to be from a material that won’t reflect the laser as to not gather bad data points while its spinning inside the device (though, it would be fairly simple to find these data points and ignore them in the code). Charlie also made the suggestion that the viewing window of the outer housing have shutters of a sort that allow for a change in view angle.

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