Monocular Visual–Inertial State Estimation With Online Initialization and Camera–IMU Extrinsic Calibration
There have been increasing demands for developing microaerial vehicles with vision-based autonomy for search and rescue missions in complex environments. In particular, the monocular visual–inertial system (VINS), which consists of only an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and a camera, forms a great lightweight sensor suite due to its low weight and small footprint. In this paper, we address two challenges for rapid deployment of monocular VINS: 1) the initialization problem and 2) the calibration problem. We propose a methodology that is able to initialize velocity, gravity, visual scale, and camera–IMU extrinsic calibration on the fly. Our approach operates in natural environments and does not use any artificial markers. It also does not require any prior knowledge about the mechanical configuration of the system. It is a significant step toward plug-and-play and highly customizable visual navigation for mobile robots. We show through online experiments that our method leads to accurate calibration of camera–IMU transformation, with errors less than 0.02 m in translation and 1° in rotation. We compare out method with a state-of-the-art marker-based offline calibration method and show superior results. We also demonstrate the performance of the proposed approach in large-scale indoor and outdoor experiments.