Rick H. Yuan, Clark N. Taylor, Scott L. Nykl, Air Force Institute of Technology

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One of the fundamental problems of robotics and navigation is the estimation of relative pose of an external object with respect to the observer. A common method for computing the relative pose is the Iterative Closest Point (ICP) algorithm, where a reference point cloud of a known object is registered against a sensed point cloud to determine relative pose. To use this computed pose information in down-stream processing algorithms, it is necessary to estimate the uncertainty of the ICP output, typically represented as a covariance matrix. In this paper we introduce a novel method for estimating uncertainty from sensed data. Using a visual simulation of an automated aerial refueling (AAR) task, we demonstrate significantly more accurate uncertainty estimates using our proposed approach than a naive “Jacobian” method.