LiDAR-based Navigation for Mobile Robotics

litehouse_01Rapid growth in the market for mobile robotics has lead to increased demands for low cost solutions to robotics navigation. Hardware that’s traditionally used for this function is expensive and often over-specified for the given application. This situation has given rise to a new class of LiDAR devices, which are purpose-built, and aimed at drastically reducing the cost of entry into navigation-capable robotics systems.

This article delves into the subject of mobile robotics navigation based on the Robot Operating System (also known as ROS, see Using the ROS Navigation suite from the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF), we highlight a solution employing the Rhoeby Dynamics R2D LiDAR, a low-cost LiDAR device.

Solutions to the problem of mobile robotics navigation typically comprise several hardware and software components, including:

  • LiDAR
  • localization
  • mapping
  • path planning
  • obstacle detection and avoidance

The above components when brought together realize the navigation system. Some video demonstrations of LiDAR-based navigation can be found here:

In order to understand what is going on in the videos, we cover some basic terminology:

LiDAR: stands for Light Detection And Ranging, and is similar to radar, but uses light instead of radio waves.

Localization: is the process of determining where the robot is located, relative to objects in it’s environment.

Mapping: is the process of building maps based on data acquired from one or more sensors.

Path planning: is the process of determining a path for the robot to follow, in order to reach a ‘goal’, whilst avoiding obstacles (a goal is just where you want the robot to go).

Obstacle detection: is the process of detecting objects in the environment that were not present during the mapping process, but are now nonetheless present.

Avoidance: is the process of path planning around dynamically occurring objects.